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Salmonella Risk? Judge Orders FDA to Reconsider Turtle Ban

A Federal District Court Judge has ordered that the FDA must reconsider its ban on selling small turtles, according to this AP report.  Sales of turtles with shells less than 4 inches long have been banned by the FDA since 1975.   The turtles have reportedly been connected to outbreaks of Salmonella

Turtle farmers are fighting the ban, and apparently feel good about there chances:

"This is a firefight this time," said Eddie Jolly, president of the Independent Turtle Farmers of Louisiana. "This has got teeth. We’re going to win this one."

The judge ruled that FDA did not give enough consideration to several arguments, such as that "larger turtles and other pets that carry salmonella can legally be sold in the United States."  Also, turtle farmers argue that "new products, such as antibacterial soap, can reduce the risk."

Turtle farmers point to a study showing that:  "A sampling of more than 67 million turtles raised in Louisiana from 1996-2005 by Southern Diagnostic Laboratory in Gilbert found 98.9 percent to be salmonella-free."

I am not sure this study really helps the farmers.  By my quick and dirty math, that means that roughly 750,000 turtles in the study were NOT Salmonella free.    That’s a lot of potential illness.   And the risk of illness is precisely what the FDA and other health advocates point to in response.   For example, a Salmonella outbreak in 2007-08 sickened 107 people, most of them children, in 34 states; one-third of the patients had to be hospitalized.