Would Better Laws Have Caught Salmonella Scare?

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2009 6:33 PM CST
Rep. Greg Walden holds up a container of food items that were recalled due to the recent salmonella outbreak associated with peanut products manufactured by the Peanut Corp. of America.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A third of US states do not require testing of the salmonella bacteria involved in reported illnesses, possibly hampering national efforts to identify outbreaks, MSNBC reports. If testing were mandatory, proponents say, a strain’s widespread dissemination could be more quickly identified and the source more easily pinpointed. But states without mandatory testing say their methods are just as effective and more economical.

Those states said they had cooperative relationships with labs, but limits on manpower and funding often forced the focus to more serious problems. “Do you do an isolate of salmonella and risk not getting an isolate of something more serious?” a Texas health official said. But proponents of mandatory testing say the cost of a national program is dwarfed by the losses of the industry in an outbreak scare.