THE SAMONELLA STORY – AN UPDATE
By Bonnie C. Minsky
President, Nutritional Concepts, Inc. and NOHA Board Member (1985)
The two recent Salmonella outbreaks in the Midwest (Hillfarm Dairy and Kaufman Delicatessen), in which two totally different strains were implicated (Salmonella typhimurium in the Hillfarm epidemic and Salmonella agona in the latter), have aroused a great deal of public suspicion and fear. The public has been asking many important questions which need to be answered. Hopefully, the questions raised here and facts, to date, will provide some answers to this serious health problem.
According to the 1982 edition of the American Medical Association Family Medical Code, "Bacteria known as Salmonella are often present in the bodies of farm animals and poultry without making them appear sick. Salmonella-infected meat, however, may cause gastroenteritis in humans. Salmonella bacteria are not killed by freezing, but are killed through cooking. Treatment will depend on the resultant disorder, but will probably include an antibiotic medication. Complete recovery can be expected." The fact is that Salmonella typhimurium bacteria that tainted the Hillfarm milk were resistant to antibiotics – penicillin and tetracycline. In fact, most of the individuals who died from the infestation had taken antibiotics for unrelated reasons. These antibiotics not only were ineffective, but killed the competing healthy bacteria that normally live in our digestive systems, thus allowing the Salmonella bacteria to reproduce wildly and eventually become lethal to their hosts.
According to the same A.M.A. Guide, a person who is extremely sensitive to penicillin (or other antibiotics) can develop an allergic reaction after drinking the milk of cows that received the antibiotic. Thus it becomes obvious that antibiotic residues do appear in the milk (and meat) of animals who take them. If these antibiotic residues do remain in our milk and meat supply, could we, as consumers, be inadvertently killing our own healthy bacteria, and preventing ourselves from actively fighting the "Superbug" strains of Salmonella?
Researchers from the US Center of Disease Control in Atlanta found that
between 1971 and 1983, most of the Salmonella food poisoning episodes could be traced directly to food animals, rather than to sources such as contaminated kitchen workers. A CDC epidemiologist named Scott Holmsberg reported in the September 1984 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that he was able to directly trace most of the cases of antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella to a South Dakota herd of cattle. The cattle were routinely fed low doses of the same antibiotic that the Salmonella was resistant to. The case against antibiotic feed additives has become strong, especially after the Natural Resources Defense Council calculated that penicillin and tetracycline are implicated in more than 270,000 cases of Salmonella infection each year, including 100 to 300 deaths.
According to Pat Larson of the Consumers Division of the Illinois Department of Public Health, the federal government can no longer avoid investigation into the indiscriminate use of antibiotic feed additives among American farm animals. In October 1984, Congress sent Margaret Heckler, Secretary of Health and Human Services, a warning to "scrupulously avoid any action that would lead to doubt or confusion over the safety of the nation’s meat supply." Heckler is, however, expected to act very soon on a petition to ban the practice of antibiotic additives.
While we, the public, await response or action, what can we do right now to protect ourselves from Salmonella poisoning?
(References to this article can be obtained by writing to Bonnie C. Minsky, c/o NOHA, PO Box 380, Winnetka, IL 60093)
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. X, No. 3, Summer 1985, pages 2-3.