The Onion: FDA approves Salmonella

My problem with The Onion is that sometimes their pieces are so good I can't figure out how to extract pull quotes. I just want to reprint the whole damn thing and that's not exactly "fair use." So if want to read it all you'll have to go there (link with pull quote after the jump). Here's a piece that is at once so grotesque and so spot on it's scary:

WASHINGTON—Calling it "perfectly safe for the most part," and "not nearly as destructive or fatal as previously thought," the Food and Drug Administration approved the enterobacteria salmonella for human consumption this week.

FDA director Stephen Sundlof okays the bacteria for eating, drinking, and applying directly to the skin.

The federal agency, which has struggled in recent years to contain the food-borne pathogen, and repeatedly failed to prevent tainted products from reaching store shelves, announced Monday that salmonella was now completely okay for all Americans to enjoy.

"Rigorous testing has shown that salmonella is...fine," FDA director of food safety Stephen Sundlof said. "In fact, our research indicates that there's no need to pull any more foodstuffs from the market. Not raw chicken. Not contaminated spinach. Not thousands of jars of harmful peanut butter. Not anything."


Following the announcement, the FDA released a 20-page report, which included evidence that salmonella is barely more dangerous than other live-culture products such as yogurt, and results from a clinical trial which found that participants who ingested salmonella were totally fine for up to three minutes.(The Onion)

Since I can't quote the whole thing, I'll be a typical science geek and take issue with some of the science. You might think that taking issue with some of the science in The Onion is missing the point, and you'd be right. But I can't improve on what they wrote -- it's hilarious -- so I retreat to what I know. Among a host of salmonella products was poised to hit unrefrigerated supermarket shelves as soon as approval was announced, The Onion incorrectly indicts mayonnaise:

"This is thrilling news," Hellmann's CEO Robert Reichert said. "We've been waiting for the federal go-ahead to produce salmonella for decades now. In fact, we have an entire line of lukewarm, sun-soaked, and partially turned mayonnaises that we just know Americans will love."

Mayonnaise gets a bum rap for being a good medium for pathogens, most of which won't grow in pure mayonnaise because it's too acid. It's when you mix mayonnaise with other stuff, like chicken or eggs, that the acid is neutralized and it becomes such a great growth medium. Those are also foods that may themselves be contaminated, either with salmonella or staphyllococcus, a common resident of human nose and skin. Many people make chicken salad by deboning the chicken with their bare hands and mixing it with the mayonnaise and other ingredients. Even when contaminated mayonnaise is usually fine if you don't let the pathogens grow by keeping the temperature below 40 degrees F. But if you allow the pathogen innoculated mayonnaise-chicken or mayonnaise-egg mixture to incubate in the 40 degree to 120 degree F. temperature range (what food safety people call "the danger zone"), then you have the perfect recipe for food poisoning. That could be a foodborne infection from massive amounts of incubated salmonella or other infectious pathogen. or a food poisoning from the toxin producer like staphyllococcus. Staph food poisoning is the "first you're afraid you're going to die, then you're afraid you're not" type of sudden nausea and vomiting that typically occurs 3 - 4 hours after eating the bad meal. Salmonella usually takes 10 - 12 hours and it is both upper and lower GI and may be accompanied by fever. Neither of these pathogens grows well in pure mayonnaise, however.

The other problem with The Onion is that their news articles and videos are so realistic that if you don't know it's The Onion they are entirely believable. So while we're on the subject of the FDA, take a look at his news conference announcing a recall of all pot pies. Because even FDA employees have to eat:

Hungry FDA Official Orders Massive Pot Pie Recall

More like this

OMG, I don't watch the Onion vids that often, preferring the written articles. This is hysterical.

that article about the bumbling sled dog in his first iditarod? from what i know of huskies (own two of 'em, but don't race them) that could be pretty straight-up reporting. they do act like complete idiots occasionally, and get all contrite and guilty when called on it. (the twirling around in harness and fouling the lines --- seen that, cussed a blue streak untangling it. and the running off after squirrels, and...)

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 12 Mar 2009 #permalink

'Calling it "perfectly safe for the most part," and "not nearly as destructive or fatal as previously thought," the Food and Drug Administration approved the enterobacteria salmonella for human consumption this week.'

I already can hear all of the cat calls before I finish writing this... but the above arguement sounds vaguely familiar... oh yeah, it is the basic arguement folks use for the legalization of marijuana...

recreational drugs are similar to diseases, david? i think you're overlooking a few minor details there.

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 12 Mar 2009 #permalink


That's sort funny. There are a few humorous parallels, and I chuckled a little bit. But if you're trying to express that you feel marijuana is similar to salmonella as a public health threat, or that the war on drugs is much like regulation of our food supply, then I disagree. Like Nomen expressed, there are really significant differences between these things that make an analogy like yours only superficially humorous.

As for arguments used for the legalization/decriminalization of illegal drugs, not all of them are hinged on danger to a user's health (or lack thereof) posed by the substance. A recent piece from The Economist is illuminating. See Revere's post from a few days ago.

Sure, but where does Salmonella fit into the Food Pyramid?

Good one .... Those who don't TRULY understand or know anything concerning cannabis are ignorant beyond, well beyond.

Screw you David, at least that's the impression you've left me with.

Funny stuff, but almost true, sad to say.

Many people are confused about mayonnaise. I loathe the stuff, but it is not usually a vehicle for foodborne illness. It's the stuff that's mixed into mayonnaise that could cause problems. About a year ago, I was watching a well-known food personality on TV. She was going on and on about how her travel-friendly chicken sandwich would be perfectly safe to take on long trips (presumably with no refrigeration available) because there was no mayo in the recipe. Apparently, this well-known host and her producers were not aware that the chicken and other ingredients needed to be kept at safe temperatures.

How much longer is it going to take, and how many more people and animals have to get sick and/or die before the world admits there is a definite connection with bio-control products; used on diseases of plants and insect control as the culprit?

First there was melamine which caused panic throughout the world. We were quick to blame China for this problem. Then there was e-coli and salmonella outbreaks which has been found in spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, peanuts and now sprouts.

As far as melamine is concerned; I am finding that biotechnology companies have been using melamine for micro capsule's (of fungus, bacteria, virus) for long term pest control in biopesticides, biofungicides, bioinsecticides etc. for a long time.

I refer you to only one patent which reveals this; United States Patent 6506397 - which in part states:

The present invention features a sustained-release microcapsule for long-term pest controlling. In general, a microcapsule has a capsule core including active pest-control ingredients and diluents, and a capsule shell which physically separates the capsule core from the surrounding medium. Diluents are arranged to entrap active ingredients therein and to provide resistance to mass transfer of the active ingredients therethrough. The capsule shell generally includes the shell pores and provides additional resistance to mass transfer of the active ingredient therethrough. Diluents are selected from a class of material such that the mass transfer resistances existing in the capsule core and/or capsule shell depend on the temperature of the surrounding medium.

23. Microcapsule according to claim 21, wherein said capsule shell is formed by condensation of formaldehyde with at least one of urea and melamine at a pH lower than 7.0.


RE: Salmonella and Peanut Products

With the introduction of microbial (biological) pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, etc. that are being put on food crops and used for insect control, there has been an increase in human and animal illnesses, we did not have these problems to this extent before. First it was lettuce, then tomatoes, animal feed and now we have Salmonella found in ****PEANUT**** products.

How much longer and how many people have to die or get sick before the question is raised AND INVESTIGATED whether biological pesticides, fungicides, insecticides etc. are perhaps the reason for the continual problems with Salmonella and E coli being found on human and animal food? And yes, these are used on "peanuts" (as well as lettuce, tomatoes etc.) [Links validating this can be found under, "Further, microbial pesticide stating "use for peanuts" section]

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs; Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division's "preprinted" form 8570-6 in itself is compelling evidence their could be a problem with contamination from bacteria and/or fungus from microbial bio-pesticides, bio-insecticides, bio-fungicides etc:

"After fermentation and prior to further processing, each batch must be tested for the following microbial contaminants and have levels below those listed:

E. coli/Coliform Bacteria

The EPA form 8570-6 (1 of 4) can be found at…

The following were some of the reasons the biological research and development company "DID NOT" received full registration from the EPA, but only received a conditional time-limited registration from the EPA Director [of] Biopesticides and Pollution Provention Division, Janet L. Anderson. [ Further stated on the above EPA form 8570-6 is very clear in stating:

"The submitted manufacturing process did not have sufficient quality control required for all fermentation batches" [page 1]

Manufacturing Process

1) A formal submission that clearly describes new quality control steps taken to assure consistent CFU/g values and limit microbial impurities in the Technical Powder. [page 2]

[The EPA also discussed: ]

*death in Freshwater Aquatic Invertebrate [page 2]
question of Bacillus Subtilis infection in shrimp [page 2]

*questions of death to "HONEY BEES" [page 3]

*not meeting guidelines requirements in submission (studies) on the toxicity and pathogenicity to "FRESH WATER FISH" [page 2]

[There were definite concerns within the EPA with respect to "microbial impurities". How then, can we be 100% sure that 'each batch' of microbial formulations used on food crops and/or used for insect control does not contain "microbial impurities" as well?]

Additionally, the company referred to above has products on the market (active ingredient; QST 207999, fungus muscodor albus that was discovered on the bark of a cinnamon tree in Honduras.) in which the company claims, "Additional uses for the biofumigant include controlling or eradicating food-borne pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, for the control of molds in grain, and for the treatment of molds in buildings.."…

Since the company has the human pathogens; Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria in their culture collection, then could there be the possibility of cross contamination?

I also question why the above human pathogens are even in the company environment; which manufactures products to be used on food sources in the first place.
[Further, microbials stating "use for ****PEANUTS****"]:
Serenade Max (page 10):

Use Sites: Terrestrial Food: cherry, cucurbits, grapes, hops, leafy vegetables (except Brassica), ****PEANUTS****, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, walnut

...following crops in various countries: almonds, crookneck and acorn squash, watermelon, mushroom, nectarine, ****PEANUTS****, pistachio, potato, strawberry, and tomato.
Serenade / Rhapsody/ Serenade Garden
Biocontrol Agent: Bacillus subtilis QST713

Crop: cucurbits, grapes, hops, vegetables, ****PEANUTS****, pome fruits, stone fruits, and others
Formulation: wettable powder
Application: spray
Biocontrol Agent: Bacillus pumilus

Crop: cucurbits, grapes, hops, vegetables, ****PEANUTS****, pome fruits, stone fruits, and others

Formulation: wettable powder
Application: spray