The bacteria Salmonella is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States with nearly a million cases of salmonellosis attributed annually to meat and poultry consumption. Of these, more than 14,000 of the victims are hospitalized and more than 400 die. The estimated total annual cost of all cases, foodborne and otherwise, of salmonellosis is about $2.46 billion (in 2006 dollars). Concern about the potential for pathogens, including Salmonella, to become resistant to antibiotics also is increasing. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are more frequently associated with illness and death than those caused by bacteria that are not resistant.
With this update to our 2006 report, Foul Fowl: An Analysis of Salmonella Contamination in Broiler Chickens, we show the continuing failure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect consumers from Salmonella contamination of broiler chickens.
For both the original report and this update, Food & Water Watch used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain USDA’s Salmonella testing results. The original report used data from 1998 through 2005 and this update uses data for 2006 through January 2008.
We are releasing this information for several reasons. First, citizens have a right to information that indicates how effectively their government is ensuring the safety of products that carry USDA’s seal of inspection. Second, consumers have a right to public information concerning the relative performance of poultry-producing plants under government inspection. Third, publication of the names of plants that have failed to meet the regulatory standard may create additional incentive for plants to improve the safety of their processes.