The federal government has taken steps aimed at reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a serious health threat that sickens an estimated 2 million people in the United States each year. But nobody knows if those steps — many focused on monitoring the antibiotics given to cattle, hogs and chickens raised for food — are working.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza – bird flu – has affected more than a dozen U.S. states and led to the slaughter of more than a billion birds. Poultry producers in Arkansas alone have had to kill more than 870 million broilers and about 30 million turkeys in attempt to control spread of the virus. In neighboring Missouri, producers have killed more than 440 billion broilers and about 11 million turkeys.
Months after a handful of senators called for better food-safety regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new standards for cut up poultry. Currently, agencies only monitor whole poultry carcasses for pathogens.
As Americans gear up to eat more than 40 million pounds of turkey this month, a handful of U.S. senators are calling for stronger Department of Agriculture oversight to reduce pathogens in poultry. Their push follows a recent government report that found poultry products – such as chicken and turkey – cause more foodborne-illness deaths than any other commodity.
ByClaire Everett/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
As China has rapidly shifted from a rural society to a more urban society, U.S. meat-production companies have looked to capitalize on new business opportunities. Tyson Foods Inc and Cargill, two of the largest poultry producers in the world, have already established production plants in China. However, some experts say that business abroad has not been profitable yet and that companies are looking to further control their foreign operations.
In a step to reduce Salmonella in chickens, Foster Farms representatives said they are feeding probiotics to the company's poultry through the water supply. But there currently are no probiotics approved for use in livestock, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials.
Federal food-safety agencies announced half a dozen recalls at the end of December, including recalls for chicken contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria and for chocolate-Santa candy with undeclared allergens. The recalls come only a couple weeks after a Colorado company recalled more than 90,000 pounds of poultry and meat because of rodent problems.
BySam Robinson/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Costco wholesale stores have joined grocery chain Kroger Co. in recalling Foster Farms’ chicken products from its shelves. The recall involves nearly 40,000 pounds of chicken sold on the west coast that has been linked to a 20-state outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg contamination. So far, the outbreak has caused at least 317 illnesses.