The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that the outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg linked to Foster Farms chicken is still making people sick. That’s stunning given the fact that this outbreak has been going on for over 14 months, according to CDC’s timeline.
CDC reports that the number of reported victims is now up to 574 with about 8 new cases each week – more than one a day. Using CDC’s estimated rate of under-reporting, the actual number of people sickened may be closer to 17,000. Nearly 40 percent of those infected have been hospitalized.
Here’s the kicker: CDC reports that nearly two-thirds of the Salmonella sampled from afflicted patients tested resistant to one or more antibiotics that are important for human medicine. The agency notes that these are typically not the antibiotics used to treat severe Salmonella infections, but cautions that “antibiotic resistance can be associated with increased risk of hospitalization in infected individuals.” Spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria through the food chain can also contribute to the larger problem of antibiotic resistance.
Scientists know that when chicken producers use antibiotics routinely, some bacteria become resistant and escape into the environment. Is this happening at Foster Farms? Foster Farms admits that it uses antibiotics, but has declined requests by NRDC and other public interest groups to disclose its antibiotic use or to commit to safe antibiotic stewardship practices.
CDC and World Health Organization have flagged antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest health threats of our time. Let’s tell Foster Farms to be a leader to protect these important medicines – and stop spreading antibiotic resistant Salmonella. Please consider tweeting your request to @fosterfarms and @NRDCFood. Or try #FosterHarms.
Here’s a recent infographic summarizing the situation (yes, NRDC officially gives you permission to share, link or re-post as you like. Click on it for a larger version).
Get more facts about the Foster Farms outbreak here.