Amid the ongoing Government shutdown, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has just announced that a major Salmonella outbreak has occurred in 18 states across the United States. Mostly affecting California residents, 278 Salmonella Heidelberg infections have been reported by consumers who have eaten chicken from Foster Farms. With the shutdown in full effect, government food inspectors are unable to explore food safety issues, track illnesses or inspect food imports, prompting critics to question whether this latest outbreak can be linked to the government’s continuing impasse.
Normally during outbreaks of food borne illnesses, the US Department of Agriculture’s website would post up-to-date alerts about outbreaks and the regions affected. But since the shutdown, much of the website, in addition to the FSIS website, is lagging behind, lacking updates or current information. Even further, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has divulged to Wired that it will be unable to conduct its regular roster of food safety practices, including inspections, which prevent contaminated foods from making their way to the grocery store. In addition, the shutdown will prevent the center from conducting investigations of any reported outbreaks.
With 278 people in 18 states already sick and no government resolution in sight, citizens’ best defense is to safeguard themselves. If you’ve eaten chicken from Foster Farms and are experiencing diarrhea, abdominal pains, vomiting or fever, play it safe and have your doctor check you out for Salmonella poisoning.