Shutdown plays chicken with public health as antibiotic-resistant Salmonella outbreak spreads

"Women Hand sliced fresh chicken breast with a knife on the white desk," a photograph by Shutterstock.

As the US government stretches out into its second week, with federal food-safety and disease outbreak personnel sent home and prohibited from returning to work--even if they wanted to without pay!--a major foodborne-illness outbreak has begun. And it involves raw chicken meat.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture has announced that hundreds of illnesses in 18 or more states were caused by chicken contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg, traced to Big Poultry producer Foster Farms.

Maryn McKenna had an early report here. And even better, it appears to be an antibiotic-resistant strain. An unusually high number of people who were sickened had to be hospitalized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is operating with roughly a third of its staff on the job during the shutdown, "has now brought back 30 furloughed employees in its foodborne division to help handle the outbreak."

In related news, wow, I just noticed that Foster Farms has rebranded itself as "humane" to animals.

More in Boing Boing's "Government Shutdown 2013" archives.