Salmonella outbreak in ColoradoThe Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued an updated Salmonella outbreak alert on Juy 31. In it, CDPHE announced that 21 cases of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Newport have been reported in Colorado. Most ill individuals sick with Salmonella Newport reported experiencing symptoms of Salmonella infection beginning in late June or early July, and while CDPHE did not announce that a second ground beef recall had been issued, the agency did warn consumers about the possibility that ground beef they have in their freezers could be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella.

This most recent drug-resistant Salmonella outbreak follows on the heels of a July 22, 2009 USDA announcement that King Soopers was recalling ground beef for Salmonella contamination. The recalled meat was also contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella (DT104), and was source of a Salmonella outbreak among residents of several states. According to news reports, most of the illnesses reportedly associated with the earlier Salmonella DT104 outbreak were also among Colorado residents. 

In its July 31 press release, CDPHE stated:

This is the second large Salmonella outbreak that the department has investigated in July. Both outbreaks have been linked to ground beef. Further investigation with the USDA in to the source of the meat in this outbreak is ongoing.

Alicia Cronquist, the foodborne disease epidemiologist at the state health department, said, “We can’t be certain that ground beef is the source of these infections, but we are concerned enough that it might be and want consumers to be aware.”

Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella contamination in ground beef has increasingly been implicated as the source of human illness. On its drug-resistant Salmonella page, the World Health Organization states:

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.

While activities addressing the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in foodborne microorganisms are ongoing, the magnitude of the problem is largely unknown in many countries. International collaborative efforts, including efforts in support of surveillance and risk assessment, need to be increased.

H.R. 1549 – Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 proposes the restriction of antibiotic use in feed animals to therapeutic purposes only to prevent the emergence of additional antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella and other foodborne pathogens in our food supply. The passage of this bill could be a huge step toward preventing future outbreaks like the two that have struck in Colorado this summer.