Eggs, from Simon Shane’s industry comments:
The revelation that a specific turkey plant in Arkansas operated by a prominent multinational agribusiness concern was responsible for an extensive outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg in consumers is naturally of concern to the public health community and to the specific industry involved.
There is however a corollary which may affect the U.S. Egg Production Industry. It will be remembered that Salmonella Heidelberg emerged as a widespread contaminant during the investigation of the SE status of Wright County Farms and affiliates following the extensive recall of shell eggs in August 2010. Public statements by FDA officials have not been entirely reassuring. Although the FDA is apparently not specifically undertaking surveillance for this potential pathogen in swab samples obtained during audits the microbiological assay procedure which is followed will detect the presence of Salmonella Group-B and Group-C serotypes and will yield Salmonella Heidelberg. Although SE has been declared an adulterant in shell eggs, there has been no disposition as to the status of any other Group-B, C or D serotypes. Any extensive outbreak of a specific serotype which is common to poultry meat and possibly eggs may stimulate an appropriate response by FDA with negative consequences.
The Salmonella Heidelberg serotype isolated from ground turkey and which has been implicated in the outbreak involving over 100 cases over a six month period in 31 states is resistant to a number of antibiotics. Antibiotic use in egg production is negligible compared to current practices in the production of turkeys. If any isolates are obtained by FDA it is presumed that appropriate characterization will be carried out to ascertain that serotypes derived from the egg industry are in fact different with respect to antibiotic resistance, plasmids and gene sequence from isolates obtained from poultry meat.
Unfortunately the incident has provided opponents of intensive animal production with additional ammunition to demand restrictive regulations. This includes groups determined to ban all antibiotic use in addition to the organizations antagonistic to confined housing of any type.
The delay in notifying consumers of the problem and lack of coordination among the CDC, the FSIS and their affiliates would also add further pressure to establish a unified food service agency analogous to the EPA, concentrating responsibility for food safety which is currently divided among many departments including the USDA and the FDA among others.
Sure to be a subject at North Carolina Turkey Industry Days.
The industry has a public relations plan to counter all this negative publicity, as reported in the Financial Times
Big US farming groups are joining forces in a multimillion dollar marketing campaign to respond to attacks by activists and small farmers that accuse them of promoting unhealthy food and abusing animals.
The outreach comes at a time of growing tension between industrial agriculture groups and small farmers and activists who argue that “factory farming” is inhumane to animals and produces food that leads to obesity and illness.
The effort also coincides with the US food industry coming under pressure to contain a salmonella outbreak this month that has been linked to ground turkey processed by Cargill, the US meatpacker. The US Centers for Disease Control said more than 100 people have been affected by the outbreak, with one death.