— OPINION —
Ground Beef tainted with Salmonella can knowingly be sold as approved by the USDA/FSIS.
It has caused a Salmonella Outbreak that has sickened 16 in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
As of July 24, 2023, 16 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul have been reported from 4 states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. Illnesses started on dates ranging from April 27, 2023, through June 16, 2023.
State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. Of the 14 people interviewed, 9 (64%) reported eating ground beef. All 9 purchased the ground beef from ShopRite locations in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. Seven of these people specifically reported purchasing 80% lean ground beef products. Two people reported purchasing ground beef products from ShopRite but could not recall the type of ground beef.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak may have gotten sick from the same food.
A routine FSIS ground beef surveillance sample collected in March 2023 was closely related to bacteria from sick people’s samples.
Hamburger – by law and with the USDA stamp of approval – can knowingly be sold tainted with a pathogen that sickens over 1,400,000 yearly. This is because USDA/FSIS does not consider Salmonella an adulterant.
Personally, as I said to the Los Angeles Times some time ago, “I think that anything that can poison or kill a person should be listed as an adulterant [in food].”
Ignoring Salmonella in meat makes little, if any, sense.
Even after the Court’s twisted opinion in Supreme Beef v. USDA, where it found Salmonella “not an adulterant per se, meaning its presence does not require the USDA to refuse to stamp such meat ‘inspected and passed’, ” our government’s failure to confront the reality of Salmonella, especially antibiotic-resistant Salmonella, is inexcusable.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court in Kriefall v Excel called it as it saw it – at least with respect to E. coli – but the analysis is spot on for Salmonella as well:
The E. coli strain that killed Brianna and made the others sick is a “deleterious substance which may render [meat] injurious to health.” There is no dispute about this. Thus, under the first part of 21 U.S.C. § 601(m)(1), meat that either “bears or contains” E. coli O157:H7 (the “deleterious substance”) is “adulterated.” That E. coli O157:H7 contamination can be rendered non-“injurious to health” by cooking thoroughly, as discussed below, does not negate this; Congress used the phrase “may render,” not “in every circumstance renders.” Moreover, if the E. coli bacteria is not considered to be “an added substance,” because it comes from some of the animals themselves and is not either applied or supplied during the slaughtering process (although we do not decide this), it cannot be said that the E. coli strain “does not ordinarily render [the meat on or in which it appears] injurious to health.” Accordingly, meat contaminated by E. coli O157:H7 is also “adulterated” under the second part of § 601(m)(1).
Now, why would Salmonella be different? According to the CDC, it is estimated that 1.4 million cases of salmonellosis occur each year in the United States. Of those cases, 95 percent are related to foodborne causes. Approximately 220 of each 1,000 cases result in hospitalization, and 8 of every 1,000 cases result in death. About 500 to 1,000 deaths – 3