Salmonella Outbreak Puts Rules in Spotlight

Publication: The Wall Street Journal

Author: Thomas M. Burton, Bill Tomson and Betsy McKay


04/04/2012 - Federal and state health officials are focusing on sushi as a possible cause of a widening salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 93 people over two months, as food-safety advocates call on the Obama administration to speed up new standards that might help avoid future foodborne infections.

Many of the people in 19 states and the District of Columbia who were sickened by an unusual strain called salmonella Bareilly have told officials they had recently eaten sushi. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it had "not conclusively identified a food source."

State officials in Louisiana, Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, New York, D.C., Texas and Connecticut confirmed a total of 68 cases.

The CDC said that 35 people, or 69% of the 51 people whose cases have been investigated, reported eating sushi, sashimi or similar foods the week before they got sick.

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An unusual coalition of food-safety advocates and industry officials lately has stepped up appeals to the administration to take action. In a letter last week to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Pamela Bailey, president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Rebecca Rimel, president of the Pew Charitable Trusts, asked the administration to move forward on the rules.

"We have provided constructive input to FDA during its process of developing these proposed rules," they wrote, "and now ask that they be brought forward for public comment."

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Importers, too, would be held accountable for following standards of sanitation. Erik D. Olson, director of food programs at Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, said that about 80% of seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from overseas. Also, salmonella on cantaloupes imported from Honduras in 2008 sickened 51 Americans in 16 states.

"Summer season is when outbreaks happen," Mr. Olson said. "The longer these rules are delayed, the more likely outbreaks will be."

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Read the full article, Salmonella Outbreak Puts Rules in Spotlight, on the Wall Street Journal's website.

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