Efforts by federal officials to quell a salmonella outbreak traced to raw chicken products that has sickened nearly 300 people and hospitalized dozens in 18 states have been dramatically slowed due to the government shutdown. The foodborne illness investigation is just one example of how the Congressional stalemate that has halted nonessential federal operations is putting Americans’ health and safety at risk.
Only a handful of scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were working on outbreak detection, which severely hampered the organization’s ability to manage the situation. This week the CDC announced it would have to recall some of its furloughed staff to deal with the issue.
With federal employees off the job, much of the investigation is falling on state laboratories and researchers to determine the source of the outbreak. To date, researchers have been able to trace the cause to three Foster Farms production plants in California. The company has other plants in Oregon, Washington and Alabama. However, the cause has not been narrowed to a specific product or products at the plants. Thus, no recalls have been issued.
People become infected with salmonella by handling raw poultry or eating undercooked poultry that contains the bacteria. Signs of infection include nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting. Salmonella can cause more serious problems in infants, the elderly, and in people with compromised immune systems.
Just as the CDC is having to scale back its efforts as a result of the shutdown, so is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency has suspended routine inspections of food processing plants in the United States and overseas, which could delay border controls. Food is still being inspected at borders but samples that need closer inspection by scientists will likely be delayed. The agency has also had to suspend its surveillance of the influenza virus just as the flu season begins.
Source: Huffington Post