The petitioners who believe that listing 31 illness-causing Salmonella serotypes as contaminants in meat and poultry products aren’t likely to take “no” as an answer.

Bill Marler (publisher of Food Safety News), attorney for Rick Schiller, Steven Romes, the Porter Family, Food & Water Watch, the Consumer Federation of America, and Consumer Reports, plans to consult with the petitioners. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) denied their petition on May 26.

It left Marler, the nation’s best-known lawyer for foodborne illness victims, perplexed by the FSIS response. The agency agrees with numerous significant points made by the petitioners but fails to turn those convictions into any imediate action.

However, FSIS says it must deny the petition because it does not believe there is sufficient data at this time to support the “sweeping actions’ requested in the petition.”

“There is plenty of data to support it,” Marler told Food Safety News. He said FSIS is lamenting the lack of data when collecting data.

FSIS has since 1994 declared O157:H7 and six other less known E. coli serotypes as adulterants in meat and poultry.

“In the 1990’s nearly all the work I did was representing people, mostly children, who became severely sick or died from E. coli.  Once FSIS determined that pathogenic E. coli should be banned from meat, those cases disappeared.  FSIS can and should do the same with Salmonella,” argued Marler.

FSIS has never banned any Salmonella strains.  

The 31 serotypes the petitioners demand to be listed as contaminants are associated with human illness. There are over 2,500 different types of Salmonella bacteria.

Marler said FSIS uses “1970s arguments” in the denial while often agreeing with the petitioners on much of the substance.

Examples of those agreements include:

  • FSIS is reevaluating its approach to controlling Salmonella in poultry.
  • It is “considering many of the points and arguments” made in the petition.
  • FSIS agreed it needs to “rethink our existing strategy.”
  • It finds Salmonella on poultry products is associated with many of the 1.35 million cases of salmonellosis each year.

Marler is consulting with the petitioners. The denial was “without prejudice,” which means the petition may be re-submitted with new information.

He thinks they will likely re-submit; Marler says FSIS is confused about Salmonella being “naturally occurring” and not an “added substance,” but FSIS seems to concede that Salmonella tainted chicken “may render [it] injurious.”

If FSIS does not give a satisfactory response, Marler says he is ready for a federal court review. He will argue that the agency’s adulterant listings are “arbitrary and capricious” under federal administrative law.

Here is FSIS letter of denial – Marler Response Final 53122

Here is the original petition – 20-01-marler-011920

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