Are We Doing Enough About Salmonella?

by Grace Gilheany on February 20, 2014

Food-borne illnesses can often be extremely serious and can potentially cause death in some cases. As the world’s population grows, it becomes more and more difficult and expensive to feed everyone. For years, businesses that produce food on a large scale adopted the practice of “adulteration” in order to produce food more abundantly for less cost. While regulations limit that practice now, the food that we eat now is full of additives and preservatives, and often contaminated by substances that may be harmful.

Salmonellosis is “one of the most common bacterial foodborne infections in the United States.”  (Nadakavukaren, 227). The USDA estimates that nearly 1.3 million incidents and illnesses each year are related to this bacterium. Most commonly found in poultry, Salmonella outbreaks have also been traced back to whole eggs, alfalfa sprouts, milk, pistachios, peanut butter, frozen meals, cantaloupes, and tomatoes. (Nadakavukaren, 228). Outbreaks of Salmonella are always followed by giant recalls and news stories, and oftentimes people do not even know that they had been infected, as it is much more deadly to children and the elderly, and healthy adults may just feel ill. As a disease that affects so many Americans yearly and can be contracted from a wide variety of common food items, one would think that there would be a greater push to eliminate salmonella outbreaks.

When a person is infected with salmonella, they can potentially become extremely ill. Salmonellosis, if mild, may just cause digestive discomfort and dehydration, but severe cases can have long-term effects. In some cases, patients with salmonellosis develop Reiter’s syndrome, which causes inflammation of joints and can lead to chronic arthritis. Arthritis can be an extremely debilitating and painful condition. While most often a disease that affects the elderly, exposure to salmonella can cause a person to develop chronic arthritis at a younger age. While many cases of salmonellosis are mild, young children, the elderly, and the already ill are likely to have a very difficult time recovering and will often face hospitalization.

Joe Whitworth wrote a very interesting article for the Food Quality News website regarding the USDA’s plan to begin lowering incidents of salmonella. Currently, poultry is treated with antibiotics. This has actually caused  the bacteria to become stronger, because it developed resistant strains that survived the antibiotics. The USDA plans to lower contamination rates by raising “performance standards; developing strategies for inspection and throughout the farm-to-table; addressing potential sources and focusing the Agency’s education and outreach tools on Salmonella.” (Whitworth). The plan hopes to eliminate over 4,000 cases of salmonella per year, which is a tiny dent in the overall total number of cases. Many critics of the plan believe that it is not worth the time and money it would take to implement new prevention tactics.

Personally, I think that any amount of extra caution that could prevent disease and help keep our population healthy is worth the time and money. Salmonella, while it often has no lasting effect, can be a devastating illness. The incidence of salmonella in the United States is far higher than an acceptable rate. The USDA needs to do everything in their power to lower contamination rates, because the bacteria only gets stronger and more dangerous as time goes on.





Whitworth, Joe. “FSIS Salmonella Plan: Reduction of 4k Illnesses per Year.” N.p., 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 5 Feb. 2014.

Nadakavukaren, Anne. “Food Quality.” Our Global Environment: A Health Perspective. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland, 2000. 215-42. Print.

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