DENVER (CBS4) – A food safety watchdog group is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep poultry and ground meat containing drug-resistant strains of salmonella out of the marketplace.
According to health officials, in Colorado alone there are 600 to 700 cases of salmonella poisoning a year. They say for every one case another 20 or 30 go unreported.
Ground meat and poultry are the targets of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The food safety watchdog group filed a regulatory petition asking the USDA to make the meats illegal to sell if they contained any of four antibiotic resistant strains of salmonella.
Alicia Cronquist, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, says in 2009 the state had two outbreaks.
“It’s a very real problem in Colorado,” Cronquist said. “Each of those outbreaks was linked to contaminated ground beef and that ground beef was recalled; and it was the first time the USDA had recalled ground beef because of an outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella.”
The food safety group is also urging testing for the salmonella in the meats to keep them off the market before people get sick.
Experts say the drug-resistant strains can cause serious disease.
“So your illness might be of a longer duration or perhaps you’re more likely to be hospitalized,” epidemiologist Elaine Scallon of the Colorado School of Public Health said.
Scallon said people also need to protect themselves — always handle raw meat and poultry carefully, don’t contaminate surfaces and other food, and cook it to 160 degrees.
“Most bacteria, if you cook the food thoroughly, you’ll destroy any bacteria that was present,” Scallon said.
King Soopers has come out with tips for safe summer grilling. Pick up a pamphlet in the meat department.