The U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened yesterday to shutter three Foster Farms chicken processing plants in California after nearly 300 people in 17 states have become sick due to an outbreak of salmonella. But today, the three chicken processing plants in California under scrutiny will remain open as the USDA inspects the changes made in those plants' sanitation regimens during the next three months.
Sacramento consumers need to think twice before buying chicken in the supermarket or elsewhere since, the U.S. Department of Agriculture officials yesterday were threatening to shut down three Foster Farms chicken plants in California linked to an outbreak of salmonella that has sickened so many consumers, according to the October 9, 2013 NBC News article, "USDA threatens to shutter Foster Farms plants tied to salmonella outbreak." The issue and question is how can the general consumer make sure any required sanitation changes have been made? And are the USDA inspection reports available to the public? See the NBC News site, "Foster Farms makes changes, can stay open after salmonella outbreak."
Check out the October 9, 2013 YouTube video, "10,000 Sick in Salmonella Chicken Outbreak," as nearly 300 people in 17 states have been sickened by a serious salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken processing plants in California, and the Centers for Disease Control says there may be many more instances that have gone unreported. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.
In letters sent to Foster Farms chief executive Ron Foster Monday, USDA officials said they’d detected high levels of the salmonella Heidelberg bacteria tied to illness at two plants in Fresno and one in Livingston. They said the company had until Thursday to respond or the agency would withhold inspections, effectively shuttering the plants.
The issue is that Foster Farms officials presently are not recalling any of their products, mostly raw chicken pieces, distributed primarily in California, Oregon and Washington. The latest news from the company is that they are cooperating fully with government investigators.
One of the problems is that last month's samples examined by the USDA showed that raw chicken processed by those plants contained one or more of the seven strains of salmonella linked to the outbreak. As of this week, 278 people in 17 states had been sickened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most cases are in California, where 213 people became ill. (CDC officials originally listed 18 states, but later amended the count.)
Not every case is salmonella is ever reported. According to the NBC News article, for every illness reported, the CDC estimates there may be 25 undocumented salmonella cases, which means that the two Foster Farms outbreaks taken together may have sickened more than 10,000 people.
Throughout both outbreaks, Foster Farms officials have issued no recalls of potentially tainted products, instead advising consumers to handle chicken properly and to cook it thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The chicken shouldn't be left in the food markets
There has been too much exposure to salmonella bacteria with too many people getting sick. USDA officials noted as explained in the NBC News article that Foster Farms made improvements at its Kelso, Wash., plant after the first salmonella outbreak, greatly reducing the pathogen. The agency urged that similar actions be taken in California. You can check out the Foster Farms notice on its website.
It should be noted that while no illness is ever acceptable, the time period for the entire situation has been over the course of six months from March to mid-September. During that same time period, more than 25 million consumers safely consumed Foster Farms chicken, says the Foster Farms website.
The Foster Farms website contains information that explains that of the 278 patients affected, 53 were confirmed to have consumed Foster Farms chicken.
According to the Foster Farms website, USDA-FSIS inspectors are present at Foster Farms facilities during all hours of operation. The USDA-FSIS inspection service is not affected by the recent federal government shutdown. Consumers have to remember that raw poultry is not a ready-to-eat product. All raw poultry is subject to naturally occurring bacteria.
Whether the raw product is from the Foster Farms brand or another, whether there is an alert or not, all raw chicken must be prepared following safe handling procedures, avoiding cross contamination, and must be fully cooked to 165 degrees to ensure safety. It's up to the consumer to decide whether to dump the chicken in their refrigerators or freezers until the salmonella outbreak is over, to go meatless for a spell, or to heat the chicken high enough to kill the bacteria. But then again, heating any food brings out the advanced glycation end products (AGEs). See, "Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet." And not heating enough won't kill the bacteria. Maybe this month it's time to celebrate going vegan.
What are the meaning of terms such as free range poultry and meats?
"Free range," "natural" and "antibiotic-free" are among the common terms on meat, poultry and egg packages today. Terms such as free range, antibiotic-free, natural and others may not actually mean what you think they do.
In some cases, terms you find on packages are regulated under federal organic rules. Other terms are standard regardless of organic status, according to the Mayo Clinic site. Some terms such as 'natural' aren't regulated at all, and some may have no relevance to animal welfare even if they sound like they do. Take a closer look. See the article, Free range and other meat and poultry terms - MayoClinic.com.
The term 'natural' or "all natural" on a food label means not much. For example, carbon dioxide is natural but can be toxic depending on how much is in the air. You can be allergic to or have an adverse reaction to some substance that's natural.
A product that says that it is "free-range" doesn't mean that it's organic, for example, just that it roams the range that can be just a few feet, without being caged in a smaller coop. It's all relative. See the site, Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?
Check out what the terms mean. For example, under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, meat and poultry products can be labeled as "no antibiotics added" if documentation is provided showing that the animals were raised without antibiotics. Similar allowable terms according to the USDA are "no antibiotics ever," "no added antibiotics" and "raised without the use of antibiotics."
The term "antibiotic-free" isn't USDA approved, according to the Mayo Clinic website. If animals are given antibiotics to prevent or treat disease, an antibiotic-withdrawal period — usually several days — is generally required before animals can be slaughtered so that there are no antibiotic residues in meat or poultry.
Go to the Mayo Clinic's website, "Free range and other meat and poultry terms," written by the Mayo Clinic staff, to see the definitions of the rest of these terms that you see on packages of various meats.The words used on labels you may find on many food packages have the following terms:
- Certified humane
- Free range or free roaming
- Grain fed
- Grass fed
- Naturally raised
- Pasture raised
- Vegetarian fed
References to the Spanish baby foods study published in the journal Food Chemistry:
M.M. Aguilera-Luiz, J.L. Martínez Vidal, R. Romero-González, A. Garrido Frenich. "Multiclass method for fast determination of veterinary drug residues in baby food by ultra-high-performance liquid chromotography-tandem mass spectrometry." Food Chemistry 132 (4): 2171-2180, June 2012 (available on line). Also see the article, A new method detects traces of veterinary drugs in baby food.
Why are there so many antibiotic veterinary drugs in baby foods containing animal protein?
Nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are administered to animals. Why are there anti-worm drugs meant for veterinary use on animals in baby foods in Europe and various antibiotics found in trace amounts in meat fed to children and put into baby foods? Higher concentrations are in poultry products such as baby foods containing chicken or turkey. But those findings pertain to baby foods coming from or found in Europe.
There still are too many veterinary drugs in commercial baby foods you find on local supermarket shelves. Going to Europe with your children this summer? Maybe it's better to bring or make your own baby food. Outside of the USA, veterinary drugs are still found in baby foods, even in tiny amounts. Can they build up in the human body and perhaps lead to resistance to antibiotics later on in humans? Inside the USA, antibiotics in meat are still found. So are pesticides on produce.
The quantities are very small, but in milk powder and in meat-based baby food, residues of drugs given to livestock were found. Researchers from the University of Almeria, a city in Spain, have developed a system to analyze these substances quickly and precisely. Check out the May 18, 2012 news release, "A new method detects traces of veterinary drugs in baby food."
Higher concentrations of veterinary drugs are found in poultry that's in the baby food. The veterinary drugs found in commercial baby foods include sulfonamides, macrolides and other antibiotic traces, as well as anthelmintics (anti-worm) and fungicides. In total, they found five veterinary drugs in milk powder and ten in meat products, especially if they were chicken or other poultry.
The study is based on research done at FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, and published in the journal Food Chemistry. The quantities are very small, but in milk powder and in meat-based baby food, residues of drugs given to livestock were found. Researchers from the University of Almería (Spain) have developed a system to analyze these substances quickly and precisely.
Antibiotics, such as tilmicosine, or antiparasitic drugs, such as levamisole, are given to livestock in order to avoid illness, but they can remain later in food. Scientists from the University of Almeria (UAL) have confirmed this, whilst checking new methodology to identify the minute quantities of these substances that remain in baby food preparations.
"The concentrations detected have been generally very low. On one hand, this suggests they are not worrying amounts, on the other hand, it shows the need to control these products to guarantee food safety" Antonia Garrido, Professor of Analytical Chemistry at UAL, pointed out to SINC, according to the May 18, 2012 news release.
With this objective, the team has developed a 'multi-residue' method, which allows several drugs to be detected at a time in baby food. Chromatographic techniques are used for this, in order to separate compounds, and mass spectrometry to identify them.
The "precise, simple and fast" methodology has been validated by analyzing twelve meat products (cow, pig or poultry) and nine milk powder samples. Data indicate that concentrations of veterinary drugs vary from 0.5 to 25.2 µg/kg in the former and 1.2 to 26.2 µg/kg in the latter "although with more samples, more conclusive results would be obtained," Garrido explained in the news release.
The study that is published in the Food Chemistry journal, suggests that this could be because in some farms there is no thorough control on the administration of drugs to animals. Until now, the European Commission has regulated the levels of pesticides and other substances in cereal based foods for children and babies, but not in animal based foods.
As a result of the lack of regulation, a zero tolerance policy is usually applied to veterinary drugs in food, as they can cause allergic reactions, resistance to antibiotics and other health problems. Now one nutrition issue is who tests baby foods in America?
Antibiotics in USA baby food via the meat products since the vegetables aren't organic unless labeled so
The baby food in the USA may be getting antibiotics in the food fed to animals. But who's testing the baby food? Agribusiness companies not certified as organic may be adding antibiotics to animal feed so that piglets stay healthy and don’t get ear infections.
Seventy percent of all antibiotics in the United States go to healthy livestock, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists — and that’s one reason we’re seeing the rise of pathogens that defy antibiotics, according to the March 14, 2009 NY Times opinion article, "Pathogens in Our Pork - NYTimes.com," by Op-Ed Columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof. Also see the site, Pathogens in Our Pork - Organic Consumers Association.
The antibiotics in the food in America is in much of the meat. For example, five out of 90 samples of retail pork in Louisiana tested positive for MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant staph infection — according to a peer-reviewed study published in 2008 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Too many veterinary drugs are turning up in baby foods in various locations. See, Traces Of Veterinary Drugs In Baby Food Detected With New Method. And in the USA, a 2009 study of retail meats in the Washington, D.C., area found MRSA (bacteria) in one pork sample, out of 300, according to Jianghong Meng, the University of Maryland scholar who conducted the study.
Antibiotics in foods sold for human consumption are voluntary
In the USA limiting antibiotics in foods is voluntary. See the April 12, 2012 Food Safety News article by Helena Bottemiller, "FDA Issues Voluntary Plan to Limit Antibiotics in Agriculture." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster, according to that article by Helena Bottemiller.
The agency said last month that it's asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance. Under FDA's proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture.
If veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency, according to the Food Safety News article. The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to "preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans."
Anti-Biotic drugs are used for animal growth promotion and production
According to the most recent estimates, nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are administered to animals. The FDA may not know what percentage is used for growth promotion or so-called production uses, which the agency is trying to limit, according to the article, FDA Issues Voluntary Plan to Limit Antibiotics in Agriculture.
Will industry voluntarily act in the best interest of consumers or in profit from selling animal flesh? The FDA's voluntary guidance is independent of a recent court order that directed the agency to revive a 35-year-old proposal to ban three antibiotics from animal feed -- penicillin and two types of tetracycline -- pending hearings. The health issue now is that antibiotics may contribute to drug-resistant bacteria strains in the humans who eat the food laced with veterinary antibiotics.