Food Safety Magazine

News | April 28, 2014

CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference Dissects Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak

By Heidi Parsons

CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference Dissects Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak

Antimicrobial resistance is becoming an increasingly hot topic among healthcare professionals, scientists, regulatory personnel, and many in the food industry, especially growers and processors of livestock and poultry. As such, "Antimicrobial Resistance & Advanced Molecular Detection" is a key subject on the agenda at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 63rd Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference this week in Atlanta. Tomorrow's program features "Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Heidelberg Infections Linked to Foster Farms Brand Chicken," a presentation by researcher Jolene H. Nakao et al.

In their investigation of the ongoing outbreak, which began in March 2013, Nakao and her team found that the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. They also warned that this outbreak may be spreading antibiotic resistance to other disease-causing bacteria.

Nakao and her team concluded, "This outbreak, in which epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence identified Foster Farms chicken as the source, highlights the need for more rigorous Salmonella control in raw chicken products. In response, Foster Farms implemented measures to decrease Salmonella burden in chicken parts, which may stimulate nationwide adoption of more stringent standards by other producers."

In a press release regarding the EIS Conference and antibiotic resistance research, CDC officials stated, "Antibiotic resistance is a rapidly growing threat. As more and more bacteria become drug resistant, the antibiotics needed to treat infections do not work as well – in some cases, not at all. Each year, more than two million Americans get infections resistant to antibiotics; 23,000 die. If antibiotic resistance continues to expand, minor infections could become life threatening and even routine surgeries would become dangerous."

Thomas Frieden, CDC director, said, "People assume that antibiotics will always be there to fight the worst infections, but antimicrobial resistance is robbing us of that certainty and new drug-resistant pathogens are emerging. It's not enough to hope that we'll have effective drugs to combat these infections. We must all act now to safeguard this important resource."

Held annually, the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference features the critical work of the CDC's current EIS officers and welcomes the incoming class of officers to the two-year post-graduate EIS program.