Amid a Foster Farms salmonella outbreak that has been linked to at least 600 illnesses, a new bill has been introduced to Congress that would grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to recall meat, poultry or egg products contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or pathogens that can cause serious illness or death.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act on June 25, 2014 to address the USDA's current claim of insufficient authority to recall meat contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens, specifically salmonella. This issue has garnered considerable attention of late due to a salmonella outbreak that started in March 2013 involving Foster Farms chicken.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a type of bacterium that occurs in the intestinal tract. Humans are most frequently infected through contaminated water or food, and symptoms may include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 8 to 72 hours of exposure. Though some people may recover without medical treatment, salmonella infection can cause severe dehydration and result in the need for hospitalization. Life-threatening complications can also arise if the infection spreads beyond the intestines.
To date, more than 600 people in 27 states have fallen ill from what state and local officials have confirmed are seven strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg. 40% of those who have been infected by this outbreak have been hospitalized for food poisoning.
According to the USDA, the outbreak can be traced back to three Foster Farms plants in California, one of which was shut down for three weeks in January due to a cockroach infestation.
Even with the duration of the outbreak and the hundreds of reported illnesses, the USDA failed to issue a recall on the grounds that it does not have the legal authority to do so, unless it can link at least one product manufactured on a specific date with at least one confirmed illness. Another issue at hand is the fact that salmonella is considered an "additive" rather than a pathogen under federal law, limiting the USDA's authority to regulate and recall products containing the bacterium.
The Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act would amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act, naming both salmonella and campylobacter (another bacteria found in raw meat, particularly chicken) as pathogens and applying a ban to bacteria that are resistant to at least two antibiotics that the World Health Organization considers critically important for human medicine. The bill would require food recalls issued by the USDA itself, rather than voluntary recalls by food manufacturers, upon the discovery of pathogens that can cause serious risks to consumer health.
Holding Food Manufacturers Accountable
At George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, we believe in holding manufacturers accountable when their negligence or wrongdoing causes consumers harm. This includes food manufacturers like Foster Farms, who we believe have an obligation to produce poultry products that are free from dangerous pathogens that can cause serious illness. If you would like to discuss your right to compensation after suffering a foodborne illness or other injury, please do not hesitate to call our law offices.
Your initial consultation with a South Carolina injury attorney at our firm is free, completely, and confidential. If you are ready to involve a legal professional who is knowledgeable and will fight for your interests inside and outside of the civil courtroom, call today! We have multiple office locations throughout the state.