WASHINGTON – The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture claiming the agency isn't doing enough to protect the public from antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella in meat and poultry.

CSPI wants the federal courts to force USDA to respond to the group’s petition to treat antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella as adulterants. CSPI, which submitted the petition in May 2011, wants USDA to declare four such strains as adulterants under federal law making products that contain the strains illegal. The four Salmonella strains covered by the petition are Salmonella Heidelberg, Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hadar, and Salmonella Typhimurium.

"USDA takes action only after people start becoming ill from these life-threatening, antibiotic-resistant superbugs," Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food safety director, said in a statement. "It is time for USDA to declare these dangerous resistant strains as adulterants and then require industry to conduct aggressive testing to keep meat and poultry contaminated with these strains out of the food supply, as it does with products contaminated with dangerous strains of E. coli."