The recall of over 826,000 pounds of ground beef, produced by Beef Packers Inc (aka Cargill), due to Salmonella contamination has resounded loudly in the food biz . . . but unfortunately not because a recall linked to ground beef is such a rarity. It most certainly is not. This recall has been big news, in large part, because the contaminant is antibiotic resistant Salmonella Newport, which only increases the public health nightmare associated with an already dangerous foodborne pathogen.
In trying to understand why E. coli O157:H7 is an adulterant according to the USDA-FSIS, but other very common (and very lethal) pathogens are not, one can’t help but be impressed by the rather common-sense argument that these bugs just aren’t good for people; and as a result, they should be considered nothing if not an adulterant on any food product.
There are lots of reasons why the list of "adulterants" on federally inspected meat products should be expanded. Bill Marler has been addressing those reasons, and his concerns about why not, loudly and clearly for years. But what about others, outside the US, outside of government and industry; what do they have to say on the subject?
Obviously Dr. Margaret Chan has too much on her plate presently with H1N1 and a likely global pandemic to give our government’s wooden adherence to its senseless policy on the subject. But at least she, and her important organization, can speak a little to the merits. And just a quick google search will reveal, pretty clearly, that the WHO recognizes the imminent, growing public health threat posed by antibiotic resistant Salmonella.
Quoting from a WHO page dedicated exclusively to the subject, the organization says:
Since the beginning of the 1990s, strains of Salmonella which are resistant to a range of antimicrobials, including first-choice agents for the treatment of humans, have emerged and are threatening to become a serious public health problem. This resistance results from the use of antimicrobials both in humans and animal husbandry. Multi-drug resistance to "critically important antimicrobials" are compounding the problems.
The WHO continues:
Multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains of Salmonella are now encountered frequently and the rates of multidrug-resistance have increased considerably in recent years. Even worse, some variants of Salmonella have developed multidrug-resistance as an integral part of the genetic material of the organism, and are therefore likely to retain their drug-resistant genes even when antimicrobial drugs are no longer used, a situation where other resistant strains would typically lose their resistance. *** Drug-resistant Salmonella emerge in response to antimicrobial usage in food animals.
And the WHO concludes as follows:
The emergence of Salmonella strains that are resistant to commonly used antimicrobials should be particularly noted by clinicians, microbiologists and those responsible for the control of communicable diseases, as well as the food producers including the food industry. Control of drug-resistant Salmonella is most efficiently achieved through the reduction of antimicrobial use. Prudent usage in food animals should be combined with good husbandry, good abattoir practice and good hygiene at all stages in the food production chain, from processing plants to kitchens and food service establishments. These combined efforts should reduce the numbers of the relevant strains in food animals and lower the risk of contamination by resistant Salmonella at all stages in the food production chain.