The strains are all resistant to multiple classes of the most commonly used antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In its petition, the consumer group included its own analysis that showed 2,358 illnesses, 424 hospitalization and eight deaths have been linked to antibiotic-resistant salmonella strains found in meat and chicken. Most of the cases are from the mid 1990s to present.
In its announcement, the group said findings of their analysis “obligates USDA to keep those strains out of the food supply.”
Salmonella Heidelberg — which the CDC linked to the Foster Farms outbreak — is one of the strains that CSPI is seeking to ban.
The Foster Farms outbreak lasted for more than 15 months, and CDC did not declare it to be over until late July. The agency also said the outbreak sickened at least 638 people, with nearly 40 percent requiring hospitalization. The company has made a number of changes in its plants over the past year and says that, over the past several months, the rate of its chicken parts that test positive for salmonella is 5 percent compared to the industry average, which is 25 percent. USDA says no more than 7.5 percent of chicken carcasses can test positive for salmonella at a plant. It has not yet set a standard for chicken parts.
In response to CSPI’s petition, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said it “will give the petition a full review. FSIS has made addressing Salmonella its top priority, as outlined in our Salmonella Action Plan.”
If the USDA agreed with the petition and sought a ban, it would be the first time it did so with pathogens it deemed particularly dangerous.
The agency has already banned seven E.coli strains. The ban essentially gives the USDA the power to order tests for the pathogens and, when they are detected, order a recall of the product.
Currently, the agency can issue public warnings and pressure companies to order recalls, but it does not believe it has the legal authority to order a recall of contaminated products on its own.
Bill Marler, a food poisoning attorney who filed a successful petition on most of the now-banned E.coli strains, said the salmonella petition has a good shot of being acted on by the USDA this time around. CSPI filed a similar petition that was rejected in 2011.
“It is long past due to give salmonella the same legal standing that pathogenic E. coli has. The beef industry has thrived with E. coli as an adulterant,” Marler said. “The meat industry as a whole will benefit ridding its product of salmonella. What’s good for its consumers and public health will be good for the industry.”