The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a citizen
petition “requesting that the administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection
Service (FSIS) . . . issue an interpretive rule declaring certain delineated
strains of antibiotic-resistant [ABR] Salmonella, when found in ground meat
and ground poultry, to be adulterants” under federal law. In re: CSPI Petition,
No. __ (USDA FSIS, filed May 25, 2011). Noting that FSIS declared E. coli an
adulterant in 1994, the petition contends, “Scientific and medical research
demonstrates that contamination of meat and poultry by ABR strains of
Salmonella poses grave public health dangers that are comparable to those
posed by E. coli 0157:H7 in 1994.”

According to the petition, several ABR strains in ground meat and poultry products have resulted in recalls, outbreaks and deaths. Seeking expedited review, CSPI claims that 36 documented outbreaks, causing thousands of illnesses and some deaths, were linked to ABR bacteria since the 1970s, and 39 percent occurred in FSIS-regulated meat and poultry products. The organization also claims that “[a]n antibiotic resistance pattern was reported for 25 of those 36 outbreaks.” The petition cites studies that found ABR bacteria in some 20 percent of ground meat products purchased from supermarkets. CSPI argues that ABR Salmonella is an “added substance” under federal law because it “occurs due to an act of humans: the use of antibiotics on farms or feedlots.”

This petition’s filing coincides with a lawsuit filed the same day against the Food and Drug Administration by a coalition of organizations, including CSPI, calling for that agency to withdraw its approval for most non-therapeutic uses of two antibiotics in animal feed. The other action is summarized elsewhere in this Update.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.