Shutdown stifles tracking of salmonella outbreak

Oct 9, 2013

An outbreak of salmonella linked to raw chicken is spreading across the country. But, the partial government shutdown could make it tougher to track.

More than 270 people have been sickened across 18 states. But when you call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety information office, you hear a recorded message saying: “Hello, you have reached the congressional and public affairs staff. We are not in the office at this time. We are on furlough due a lapse in federal government funding.”

Inspectors stationed in meat-packing plants have avoided furlough during the shutdown, but communications staff who push information out to the public have not. And many of the scientists who look at the bigger picture at the Centers for Disease Control are also out which means large, multi-state investigations are stifled.

The USDA has linked the salmonella outbreak to California-based Foster Farms, a company that caused a similar outbreak last year.

This story originally aired as part of Business Beat, a weekly program about business and economics in mid-Missouri.