Terra Sigillata

Just one last comment on the recently passed FDA legislation. I know that Terra Sig readers must be tiring of this issue already, but this aspect was too good to pass up. I started writing this post on a lark but the topic actually has serious public health implications.

John Mack at his Pharma Marketing Blog made the clever observation that while DTC restrictions were not in the Senate bill, a provision “prohibiting the FDA from restricting the sale of turtles less than 10.2 centimeters in diameter as a pet DID make it into the bill (Title VII – Domestic Pet Turtle Market Access; Section 703)”

As John seriously points out, pet turtles can be a source of Salmonella poisoning. A strain of Salmonella that killed a 4 week old baby in July was identified as coming from the Florida family’s pet turtle. MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) also documents several other cases of turtle-related salmonellosis in 2004.

The CDC reports that turtles smaller than 4 inches pose the greatest risk of salmonellosis. Interestingly, the link also points out that sales of these smaller turtles had been outlawed in the US since 1975, thereby preventing over 100,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning.

I had not known this at all and suspect that the new law now makes it legal to possess these smaller turtles without FDA oversight – not a good idea given what I’ve learned this afternoon.

The CDC recommends that pet turtles not be kept by households with children under the age of 5 because of the particular susceptibility of younger children to serious and potentially deadly effects of Salmonella poisoning.

Amazing what you learn when you actually read these tomes of legislative text…and then dig in a bit to learn the background on these seemingly esoteric issues.

Comments

  1. #1 Sven DiMilo
    September 22, 2007

    Let me guess–that clause was inserted into the legislation by representatives of Louisiana; it benefits fewer than a dozen (I’m making these numbers up but they’re close) proprieters of Baby Turtle Farms, mostly red-eared sliders, the zebra mussel of turtles worldwide…

  2. #2 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    September 24, 2007

    I had not known this at all and suspect that the new law now makes it legal to possess these smaller turtles without FDA oversight – not a good idea given what I’ve learned this afternoon.

    Dealers currently get around the ban prohibiting “sale” of these turtles by including the turtle “free” with the purchase of the turtle supplies. I don’t think possession was ever outlawed. (Take a look at any local flea market for examples.)

    Of course, making it easier for little kids to get hold of potentially poisonous turtles cannot be a good thing – for the turtles OR us!

  3. #3 Nell Liquorman
    September 25, 2007

    Bans come about only after the damage is done. Shouldn’t we consider them serious and not try to get around them? Often the profit just is not worth the risk. Perhaps if the sellers got sued for putting children at risk, we would stop hearing about people having unsuitable animals as pets. Also, parents must take some of the responsiblilty for not putting effort into some research before bring any animal into the household.

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