WASHINGTON – The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) submitted a second petition to the US Department of Agriculture calling for certain strains of antibiotic-resistantSalmonellato be classified as adulterants. In July, the USDA dismissed without prejudice a similar petition the CSPI submitted in 2011.

However, the new petition seeks to cover all meat and poultry products, not just ground products. CSPI said in its petition that antibiotic-resistant strains ofSalmonellawere linked to at least 2,358 illnesses, 424 hospitalizations and eight deaths — statistics that obligate USDA to keep those strains out of the food supply.

CSPI pointed to multistate outbreaks of antibiotic-resistantSalmonellaHeidelberg linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms. A recall of Foster Farms chicken products was announced in July, but by then more than 600 consumers were sickened. CSPI argued that USDA "uses its authority in an arbitrary and inconsistent way".

"The Foster Farms outbreaks should have served as a wake-up call to USDA, but the agency keeps hitting the snooze button," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food-safety director. "USDA should be testing for antibiotic-resistant strains ofSalmonellato keep contaminated foods out of grocery stores — just as it now can do for the most dangerous strains of E. coli. Antibiotic-resistantSalmonellais no less dangerous and kills twice as many Americans each year."

CSPI said one reason USDA denied the first petition related to the agency's position that proper cooking and handling is sufficient to killSalmonella.

"The number of illnesses and hospitalizations alone shows that USDA's confidence in Americans to control antibiotic-resistantSalmonellawith proper cooking is misplaced," DeWaal said. "The key is to reduce consumer exposure by keeping these strains out of the meat and poultry products altogether."