Hundreds of customers of California poultry producer Foster Farms have a health problem: an especially potent strain of salmonella.
And the country has a governance problem: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have been furloughed by the federal government shutdown.
These two problems do not play nicely together.
As the tainted chicken makes it way onto plates as far away as the East Coast, Hawaii, and Alaska (seriously — this is what our food system looks like now), the CDC is summoning dozens of its employees back to work to help handle the emergency. According to an NBC report:
Of 183 complete cases, 76 patients have been hospitalized. Among those, many infections appear to be resistant to the most common antibiotics used for them [said CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds].
At least seven different strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been tied to the outbreak, which led CDC officials on Tuesday to recall 30 staffers, including 10 who work for the agency’s PulseNet team, which monitors the electronic fingerprint of dangerous foodborne bugs. They’d been on furlough because of a government shutdown stretching into its second week.
“We had said from the beginning that we were monitoring 30 outbreaks of foodborne illness,” Reynolds said. “This is one of them. It’s breaking loose now.”
The CDC move follows a USDA public health alert issued Monday for the raw chicken products.
We’d hate to imagine how Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) would react if he ended up in the hospital because of food-borne bacteria that spread to his state while Congress forced the country’s food cops to stay at home.