Food Recall Resource

Drug Resistant Salmonella Strain Linked to Soft Cheese and Beef

Hundreds of people across 32 states are battling sickness due to a multidrug-resistant strain of salmonella.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that this particular strain, salmonella Newport, is likely due to soft cheese from Mexico, and beef from the United States.  Bad Food Recall urges beef and cheese lovers to beware.

Salmonella Newport Outbreak

Between June, 2018 and March, 2019, 255 people have become sick with this particular antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella.  The New York Post reports that 60 people have been hospitalized, and two people have died due to Salmonellosis, or salmonella infection.

According to the CDC’s recent Morbidity and Mortality Report, these hundreds of illnesses are most likely due to soft cheeses purchased in Mexico and beef consumed in the U.S.

The Mexico Connection

Patients who are sick with this particular strain report visiting Mexico before getting sick.  Many of them report eating either soft cheese or beef prior to their illness.  Among the victims who traveled to Mexico:

  • 87% reported eating beef
  • 63% reported eating soft cheese
  • 79% of those who ate soft cheese obtained it in Mexico

The cheese in question, queso fresco, is well-known to those concerned with food safety.  Queso fresco is a soft cheese frequently made with raw, unpasteurized milk from either cows or goats.  Without the benefit of pasteurization, raw milk can contain and transmit dangerous pathogens.

Transmission by Cattle

The CDC’s comment about this particular salmonella outbreak is:

An outbreak that combines reports of the consumption of both cheese and beef most often indicates that dairy cattle are the source of the infection.”

Officials believe this contamination comes directly from cattle rather than by poor hygiene during food production.  That is because of a few factors, including:

  • Victims report consuming queso fresco
  • Many victims report traveling to Mexico
  • The presence of indistinguishable strains of salmonella Newport in both beef and cheese
  • Dairy cattle are often a source of ground beef

This is not the first time dairy cattle have been implicated in an outbreak of salmonella Newport.

How do Cows Transmit Salmonella to People?

Normally, salmonella transmits to people from contamination caused by unhygienic conditions.  In this outbreak, however, the cows themselves have infection, and people who are eating dairy products and meat from sick cows are becoming gravely ill themselves.

Salmonella is one of the more commonly found pathogenic bacteria on earth.  It colonizes virtually all warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals, in addition to thriving outside a host on surfaces and in soil.

Ground beef in particular is known for its association with salmonella because of the intense use of antibiotics with dairy cows.  The bacteria found in ground beef is more likely to be antibiotic-resistant for this reason.

When humans consume salmonella-contaminated dairy or meat from a sick animal, the bacteria can colonize the person’s gut.  That is why it is crucial to cook meat to a safe temperatures and to pasteurize dairy to kill harmful pathogens.

How did Americans get Sick from Beef Purchased in America?

Included in the hundreds of people reporting illness with this particular strain of salmonella are many patients who did not travel to Mexico.  Among this subset, the source of their infection seems to be beef.  CDC researchers identified a genetic similarity that strongly suggests that the salmonella strain causing the outbreak is present in cattle in both countries.

Antibiotic Resistant Strains of Salmonella

Conventional farmers use antibiotics on both beef and dairy cattle to such an extent that this use  has given rise to antibiotic-resistant salmonella strains.  The CDC suggests:

  • Avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics in cattle
  • Taking special care not to use antibiotics used to treat human salmonella infections

These are important ways to help prevent the spread of multidrug-resistant salmonella Newport.

Essentially, drug-resistant pathogen strains are the unintended consequence of modern agricultural practices.  Studies show that when conventional farms start using organic practices – namely when they begin avoiding the use of antibiotics on livestock – drug-resistant strains are not so prevalent.

One study shows only six percent of salmonella samples from an organic farm contain multi-drug resistance, whereas 44 percent of samples from conventional farms show resistance.

How Dangerous is this Drug-Resistant Strain?

At this time, the CDC needs to further investigate before the agency can make specific determinations.  The CDC considers the salmonella Newport strain to be an emerging strain because it was not detected before 2016.   When people become sick with this strain of bacteria, the infection does not respond immediately to azithromycin or ciprofloxacin.  These are the two most common antibiotics doctors prescribe to patients with severe salmonella infections.

A severe salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream, and that complication can be fatal.  Vulnerable groups of people, such as children under the age of five, pregnant women, elderly adults, and adults with weakened immune systems are more likely to  become seriously ill from salmonella.

In all cases, whether mild or severe, symptoms develop between 12 and 72 hours after exposure to the pathogen.  Symptoms most often include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • stomach cramps

Healthy adults who suffer only mild salmonella infection usually recover without treatment within a week.

One of the Most Common Foodborne Illnesses

CDC estimates about rates of salmonella illnesses in the United States indicate:

  • 2 million people get sick from salmonella every year
  • 23,000 people require a hospital stay
  • 450 people die

Preventing Infection

It’s no surprise that queso fresco and beef are the food sources making so many people sick in this outbreak.  If you want to avoid salmonella infection, avoid eating soft cheeses like queso fresco.

Likewise, many people believe they can thoroughly cook ground beef by just visually inspecting the meat.  Cooking food to a proper temperature, or pasteurizing dairy products, is the best way to ensure you and your family avoid infection.  The proper temperature for ground beef is an internal temperature of 160°.

Learn More About Salmonella Outbreaks and Your Rights

If you or someone in your family is battling illness due to a foodborne pathogen, talk to Bad Food Recall.  If the source of your infection is a contaminated food product, you may be able to recover the costs of any resulting medical bills.  Call Bad Food Recall at 877-534-5750, or online contact form for more information.



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