The rippling impacts of the partial shutdown of the Federal Government spread far and wide; potentially to the dinner table of every American. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the website is only partially updated because of the shutdown) reported Tuesday that nearly a dozen food borne illness experts who had been furloughed because of the shutdown, have been called back to work. Why? In part, because a salmonella outbreak has sickened nearly 300 people, some afflicted with infections that have resulted in hospital admissions for treatment.
Prior to Tuesday, the food borne illness division was down to a skeleton crew, with most division team members among the 9,000 of the agency’s 13,000 workers who are furloughed. Between the initial furlough and the recall, there were 10 agency workers in the division who were struggling. They were struggling to stay on top of monitoring bacteria strains across the country and to update the agency’s PulseNet database, a centralized platform for identifying and locating the sources of food borne illness outbreaks.
Things changed, however, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a safety alert warning of the increasing number of salmonella caused illnesses. The illnesses have been traced to raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms, based in California. So far, 278 illnesses have been reported in 18 states.
As of yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was threatening to shut down the three plants in California that have been linked to the outbreak, but official action in that regard has not yet been taken. That particular “shut down” has not yet occurred, and Foster Farms has not yet agreed to a voluntary recall of the effected products. Instead, Foster Farms President Ron Foster posted a “note” on the company’s website that “emphasizes the need to fully cook and properly handle raw poultry. In other words, buyer beware and you’re on your own. At least the government shutdown is no longer a threat to your dinner table when it comes to salmonella poisoning.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.