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36 Million Pounds of Salmonella-Tainted Proof that Our Food Safety System is Broken

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety page, Farm Issues page, Factory Farm page, and our USDA Watch page.


If Cargill's 36 million pounds of antibiotic-resistant-salmonella-tainted turkey that sickened 77 people and killed one (at last count) proves anything, it's this: The government's approach to regulating disease-causing pathogens like salmonella and E. coli in food the same way it regulates plaster, chalk, or even melamine simply doesn't work.

According to the USDA and FDA, stuff added to food that makes it dangerous to eat is an "adulterant." And adulterants in food are illegal. So far, so good. But it turns out that at USDA, it's not enough that meat has something in it that shouldn't be there. It has to be something that the agency officially considers an adulterant. And that fact has provided a regulatory loophole that Cargill was able to drive 36 million pounds of contaminated turkey through.

How so? Maryn McKenna explains over at Wired Science that the USDA neglected/refused to declare the particular strain of salmonella that contaminated Cargill's turkey an adulterant. Therefore, Cargill wasn't breaking any law in distributing turkey containing this superbug. And to the extent the government knew about problems at the Cargill facility that produced all the turkey (which it appears they did as early as May), there was little they could do.

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