The U.S Department of Agriculture recently issued a public health alert, saying it has linked some raw chicken products produced in California to a salmonella outbreak. We went to Dr. Scott Hurd, DVM, Associate Professor and Director of the Food Risk Modeling and Policy Lab at Iowa State University and a former USDA Deputy Undersecretary, for insight.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said it had associated chicken at three California facilities with strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. Anything noteworthy about this particular strain?
Dr. Scott Hurd: “Heidelberg is one of the more common strains in poultry. If you start to find humans ill with Heidelberg, look first to poultry.”
The CDC says some salmonella strains found in the outbreak were resistant to one or more drugs. How concerning is this?
Dr. Scott Hurd: “The occurrence of some resistance is not concerning as virtually every bacteria is resistant to some type of antibiotic.”
Salmonella does not trigger an automatic recall like E. coli outbreaks because it's not considered an adulterant (something that acts as a contaminant when combined with other substances). Some want this changed saying more dangerous strains of salmonella resistant to antibiotics have emerged in recent years. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Scott Hurd: “First of all, I don’t think more dangerous strains have been emerging. Secondly, making Salmonella an adulterant would virtually shut down meat production in the United States. The courts have ruled that doing so would be excessive.”
Should consumers be concerned that chicken is contaminated with salmonella? What role does food safety play in this?
Dr. Scott Hurd: "In one sense consumers should always be concerned about bacteria on their meat, be it salmonella, campylobacter, or E. coli. For this reason, the consumer always holds the final and strongest key to food safety, which is proper handling and cooking.”
Do you have questions about bacteria on food? Ask the experts!
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