November 19, 2019
US politicians urge more transparency on microbiological testing data following Salmonella Dublin outbreak
In mid-November, US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand penned a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting more transparency when it comes to the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS)'s collection of microbiological testing data from slaughterhouses and meat and poultry processing establishments.
The letter was prompted by a current outbreak of Salmonella Dublin that's been linked to ground beef. That outbreak has been identified in six states, sickening 10 people and claiming at least one life.
A single, common supplier of ground beef has not been identified. During the investigation, six samples of raw ground beef products tested positive for the outbreak strain.
While FSIS does conduct routine testing to measure compliance with Salmonella performance standards, FSIS regulations do not require that meat establishments take any remedial action to protect the public from product that is contaminated with an outbreak strain.
Although no single company has been named in this outbreak, a recall of more than 34,000 pounds of ground beef products were recalled on November 15 by Central Valley Meat Company. FSIS was notified of an investigation of Salmonella Dublin illnesses on September 9.
Working in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health partners, FSIS determined that there is a link between ground beef products from Central Valley Meat Co., Inc., and this illness cluster. The trace-back investigation indicated that a case-patient consumed ground beef produced by Central Valley Meat Co., Inc.
As USDA FSIS uses whole-genome sequencing as part of its sampling programme, this makes it easier to identify links between pathogenic strains found in samples from patients to confirmed cases of foodborne illness.
"Those links provide actionable information for companies to reduce food safety risk," the letter said.
The letter goes on to outline how better transparency on the part of USDA by disclosing more data would lead to many benefits not only for the meat and poultry industry, but for the public as well.
- Food Safety Magazine