Attorneys representing the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in 2014 because the agency would not declare the most dangerous Salmonella strains as adulterants.
But after only about 60 working days, the same attorneys cited Civil Procedure Rule 41 A to get the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss the lawsuit “without prejudice.”
The “41 A” dismissal motion must be used quickly before defendants file any responses or motions for dismissal. It is still a bit of mystery as to why CSPI dismissed its case. It did not get FSIS to declare strains of antibiotic-resistant (ABR) Salmonella as adulterants in meat and poultry. Nor have others who have tried.
“Ample scientific and medical research demonstrates that ABR Salmonella in meat and poultry poses grave public health dangers,” said the CSPI complaint in 2014. “However, after more than three years after CSPI’s petition, FSIS has neither granted nor denied the petition, and it has taken no action to declare ABR Salmonella as an adulterant.”
CSPI wanted “certain strains.” of ABR Salmonella declared as adulterants, including ABR Salmonella Hadar, ABR Salmonella Heidelberg, ABR Salmonella Newport, and ABR Salmonella Typhimurium. After dropping the 2014 court challenge, CSPI filed a petition to ban ABR Salmonella only to see it denied in 2018.
The antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains were then causing the most illnesses and deaths among meat and poultry consumers, and that continues. All of the world’s 2,650 or so Salmonella strains continue to be allowed in U.S. meat and poultry.
The latest development in this long saga, as first reported in Sunday’s Washington Post, is that food safety attorney Bill Marler wants the federal government to ban dozens of Salmonella strains from meat and poultry. Along with some victims and activist groups, he’s petitioning FSIS to ban a much longer list of Salmonella strains than was at the heart of the 2014 case from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Marler was a key figure in getting E. coli O157:H7 made illegal after the Jack-in-the-Box tragedy 25 years ago. He later was successful in getting six other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strains banned.
His new targets are “the following outbreak serovars (serotypes) to be per se adulterants in meat and poultry products: Salmonella Agona, Anatum, Berta, Blockely, Braenderup, Derby, Dublin, Enteritidis, Hadar, Heidelberg, I 4,,12:i:-, Infantis, Javiana, Litchfield, Mbandaka, Mississippi, Montevideo, Muenchen, Newport, Oranienburg, Panama, Poona, Reading, Saintpaul, Sandiego, Schwarzengrund, Senftenberg, Stanley, Thompson, Typhi, and Typhimurium.”
Marler calls his list “Salmonella Outbreak Serotypes.”
The meat industry has a messaging problem with Salmonella. It goes from depicting Salmonella as a problem that will eventually be solved by technology to its old stand by position of blaming consumers who don’t understand how to use thorough cooking techniques to kill naturally occurring bacteria.
Neither FSIS nor the meat industry have yet responded to Marler’s 62-page petition.
About 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospital admissions, and 420 deaths occur annually due to Salmonella, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Richard Raymond, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety for President George W.Bush, told the Washington Post that “the contamination rate with chickens is a particular embarrassment.”
The Marler petition says the 10 most prevalent Salmonella serotypes are responsible for 59 percent of all NTS-associated human illnesses. Forty-one percent of Salmonella-related human disease is caused by the top three serovars.
“Accordingly, the petitioners urge the administration of FSIS to issue an interpretive rule declaring Outbreak Serotypes of Salmonella adulterants within the meanings of the FMIA and PPIA, ” the petition says. “By banning recurring serotypes in meat and poultry products, FSIS will take a significant leap forward in ensuring the safety of American consumers. As the burden of Salmonella infection within the U.S. steadily increases, immediate action on this issue is critical.”
Rick Schiller, Steven Romes, the Porter Family, Food & Water Watch, Consumer Federation of America, and Consumer Reports are among the Marler petitioners. Marler is managing partner of the Seattle-based food safety law firm of Marler Clark and publisher of Food Safety News.
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