The salmonella outbreak traced back to three Foster Farms chicken plants include a strain that is resistant to antibiotics, and some are blaming the heavy usage of antibiotics in the industry.
The salmonella pathogen is reportedly resistant to the same antibiotics often used for enhanced livestock growth and disease prevention. When livestock live in crowded or small enclosures, the chances for disease increase.
CDC salmonella outbreak statistics report that 317 Americans have contracted the virus, which appears to have stemmed from the Foster Farms chicken plants. A total of 73 percent of those stricken with salmonella are from California.
“The frontline antibiotics we desperately need to treat this outbreak have been rendered ineffective by overuse on the farm, which is why once and for all we must ban the use of antibiotics in food animals unless the animals are sick,” said New York Representative Louise Slaughter, a Democrat.
Thirteen percent of the chicken salmonella victims have developed potentially life-threatening blood poisoning complications. Although none of the outbreak victims have died, twice the normal salmonella hospitalization rate has occurred.
Slaughter is sponsoring a bill, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, that would “ban the routine overuse of 8 critical classes of antibiotics on healthy food animals,” according to her website.
“Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are given to healthy food animals, often to promote growth and overcompensate for crowded and unsanitary conditions,” according to Louise Slaughter’s website. “As a result, bacteria become resistant to these overused antibiotics, and antibiotic-resistant infections kill tens of thousands of Americans every year.”
A 2010 study published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Diseases showed that organic-raised chickens on average have nearly seven times less the levels of salmonella than chickens raised in plants. Organic-raised chickens aren’t given antibiotics.
While the purpose of the medication administration is to prevent illness, some experts feel that such small doses fail to kill illness threats and “bugs” growing inside the livestock – particularly in chicken and cattle. This low dose antibiotics cycle used on livestock actually encourages the “bugs” to evolve into drug-resistant strains, some agricultural and medical experts believe.
When meat or poultry of this variety reach the open market, and are not prepared “carefully,” salmonella outbreaks often occur. High fever and gastrointestinal issues are often the first signs of the illness.
A previously reported by Off The Grid News, in September the CDC reported a verifiable link between antibiotic use in livestock and bacterial resistance deaths in humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 23,000 people die from such illnesses each year. The health organization is urging ranchers to “scale back” on the use of antibiotics on livestock which are also routinely prescribed to save the lives of humans.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not recalled potentially contaminated chicken because the federal agency does not consider salmonella an “adulterant.” An adulterant is a chemical which behaves as a contaminant when added to other substances. Adulterants are often added to pure substances in order to increase quantity, even though quality suffers in the process.
Center for Science in the Public Interest Director Caroline Smith DeWaal believes the USDA should change salmonella’s designation and deem it an adulterant because new strains are becoming far more toxic. DeWaal also said, “We’re dealing with a salmonella that poses a much greater risk to the public.”