The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a citizen petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeking a declaration that four antibiotic-resistant (ABR) strains of Salmonella are adulterants under federal law. This is CSPI’s second petition on the matter and attempts to respond to data gaps identified by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) when it denied the consumer advocacy organization’s 2011 petition in July 2014. Details about the denial appear in Issue 532 of this Update. CSPI bolsters the first petition with additional information on ABR Salmonella outbreaks, including numbers of individuals sickened and types of antibiotics to which the infections were resistant.

CSPI also emphasizes that FSIS has already been declaring these pathogens adulterants on a case-by-case basis in issuing certain recalls, but its inconsistency in this regard, in CPSI’s view, is “putting consumers at risk.”

While CSPI argues that its first petition was sufficient under the law to support the requested relief, it includes in its appendix references to studies that show consumer meat-handling, preparation and cooking practices do not adequately control for bacteria or pathogens present on or in the meat, because many are misinformed about proper practices or simply do not apply them. CSPI contends that FSIS’s request for studies on the heat resistance of ABR Salmonella are not relevant based on research showing that nearly half of “finished” chicken “did not achieve the temperature necessary to deactivate Salmonella. Such a finding means that Salmonella may well survive ‘ordinary’ cooking practices.”

CSPI details the serious illness conditions that can be caused by Salmonella infections to demonstrate that they merit the same consideration as the conditions that led FSIS to declare that seven serotypes of E. coli adulterants in raw, non-intact beef products were adulterants. The organization also estimates that Salmonella kills 378 people annually, while E. coli causes just 20 deaths each year; it calculates the economic costs of Salmonella in meat and poultry in excess of $1.4 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity. See CSPI News Release, October 1, 2014.