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How Factory Farming and the Government Shutdown Collided to Create a Serious Public Health Issue

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range page and our Food Safety Research Center page.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a public health alert for a widespread salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 300 people in multiple states. The current outbreak has gotten significant attention because it coincides with a government shutdown, which has furloughed the vast majority of federal public health officials and may be hampering the CDC's ability to track the disease (on Wednesday, the CDC called some of those furloughed employees back to work).

But it gets worse. Now, the CDC is reporting that the hospitalization rate for the outbreak is twice as high as it usually is for salmonella cases. Forty two percent of the people who have contracted this strain of salmonella have needed to be hospitalized so far - and the hospitalization rate for this type of foodborne illness is typically around 20 percent.

CDC officials say that's because of several strains of salmonella in this outbreak are resistant to drugs. "Antibiotic resistance, as seen in this outbreak, may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals," CDC spokesperson John O'Connor noted.

How did this become a problem with salmonella? Likely because the chickens that first spread the illness, which were packaged at three Foster Farms facilities in California, were pumped full of too many antibiotics.   


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