You may be surprised to learn (I was) that the US is having a large (almost 400 people) multistate (42) salmonella outbreak (S. typhimurium, often but not always associated with poultry and dairy products). So far 67 hospitalizations, with patients spanning the age spectrum (ages 1 to 103).DNA fingerprinting has established all cases are related (a common source or sources). Oh, and one more thing. It didn’t just begin. Apparently it’s been going on since sometime in September.
Like the plat du jour, this is the salmonella outbreak du jour. Last summer we were treated to the tomatoes-cilantro-jalapeno peppers fiasco (see here, here, here). Then the microwaveable frozen chicken entrees. Don’t forget the pet food. Now salmonella oubreaks happen all the time. The are usually local, and even the local ones can be fairly large. But what we are seeing here are large and multistate outbreaks. This is not a local food vendor gone wrong. This is a whole system gone wrong. The food safety system is broken and it doesn’t even seem able to stop outbreaks once discovered, much less prevent them. In the current outbreak CDC and its sister food “safety” agencies have yet to identify the source:
“It is often difficult to identify sources of foodborne outbreaks. People may not remember the foods they recently ate and may not be aware of all of the ingredients in food. That’s what makes these types of investigations very difficult,” said CDC spokesman David Daigle.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working to determine the source of the outbreak. (Alice Carver, eFluxMedia)
I’m guessing they know a lot more than they are telling us. This has been going on now for a few months. But they obviously feel burned by the tomato/pepper/cilantro episode from the summer. That’s understandable. The announcement to stop eating tomatoes before they had positively nailed it cost farmers and producers a lot of money. Personally, I think erring on the side of caution was proper, but clearly they aren’t going to chance a repeat. It would give me more confidence if they would just say that, but agencies don’t like to admit they screwed up, so we won’t hear it. Why they won’t tell us which states are affected, though, is a mystery. Maybe they could just tell us which states aren’t affected. It’s probably just communications incompetence and stupidity. That’s the easiest and most plausible explanation.
Meanwhile, there’s another big multistate salmonella outbreak and no specific plans I’ve heard to fix the FDA and USDA. CDC could sure use some new leadership, too. So much to do. So little time.