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Salmonella action plan falls short, drug-resistant strains not addressed

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The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today released its latest Salmonella Action Plan in hopes to address the estimated 1.3 million illnesses that can be attributed to various strains of Salmonella annually. According to the nonprofit, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) while a step in the right direction, the plan falls short, pointing out that the plan completely ignores one of the most pressing issues, antibiotic-resistant Salmonella.

CSPI notes that it has been two and a half years since they initially petitioned the agency to declare certain strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella to be adulterants, failure to address these resistant strains of salmonella in the latest plan continues to leave the public at risk.

“Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year. The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen.

Back in October of this year a serious multistate outbreak of multidrug resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infection that hospitalized dozens was linked to Foster Farms. According to CDC stats, as of November 15, 389 persons, in 23 states, were infected with seven identified outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, with 40% of the ill being hospitalized, no deaths were reported.

The FSIS plan does implement important changes. The "moving windows" approach for evaluating plant performance is a positive change that will allow USDA’s FSIS to respond more quickly and with better information. CSPI calls for broader changes and proposes that a logical solution is to test every poultry and beef slaughter plant each week for Salmonella. CSPI believes this measure will increase consumer protection, since it will allow the agency to “take prompt action if a plant veers off course.”

Consumers with questions about food safety may use the virtual "Ask Karen," FSIS representative available anytime at AskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is 1-888-674-6854 and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. Recorded messages are available 24/7.

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