FDA Permits Salmonella in Animal Feed Despite Health Threat
On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally revoked a 1967 policy that prohibited the sale of feed contaminated with Salmonella. As a result of this policy change the agency will allow feed known to be contaminated with Salmonella to be fed to pigs, chickens and cattle. Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) is deeply disappointed that the FDA is willfully eliminating such an important public health safeguard.
Salmonella is a bacteria that causes over a million cases of illness in the United States each year and is dangerous to both animal and human health. FDA surveillance routinely finds Salmonella in animal feed, often the same strains that are known to cause human illness. Salmonella in feed not only infects the animals, but the contaminated feed can also spread the bacteria far and wide, causing people who consume products from the infected animals to become ill.
The FDA's policy change applies to strains of Salmonella known to cause illness in humans but that do not commonly cause illness in animals. This is an important distinction because these are the very strains that could cause serious outbreaks of foodborne illness. These strains of Salmonella are prohibited in pet food out of concern for human health. The agency changed its policy related to livestock feed despite strong evidence linking contaminated feed to large outbreaks of illness in people. One area of particular concern is the potential for the introduction of new strains of Salmonella into the country through imported feed. The introduction of Salmonella "super bugs" that do not respond to antibiotics is entirely possible.
"When it comes to meat, milk, and eggs, feed is the first link in the food safety chain. That the FDA is eliminating this policy that has stood for almost half a century directly contradicts the agency's mandate to protect public health and prevent harm," said Steve Roach, FACT's Public Health Program Director. "Given the failure of the administration to make any progress on reducing Salmonella infection in humans and the globalization of the food and feed supply, this action is even more disturbing."
For decades FACT has been fighting to ensure animal feed is safe. We believe that healthy animals are essential for maintaining a safe food supply. When the agency first proposed this policy change related to Salmonella in 2010, FACT strongly opposed it through grassroots advocacy and through formal comments to the agency.
"It's completely irresponsible for the FDA to permit Salmonella to contaminate any type of animal feed," stated Roach. "FACT calls on the FDA to require feed makers and suppliers to keep Salmonella out of feed. Once people start becoming ill from Salmonella introduced through feed it will be too late."