Ultimate Smackdown Cage Match: FDA vs. Yellow-Bellies


Never fear: the FDA SWAT team is on da job. That’s right, just when you were worried that eggs, baby formula, and other milk products were contaminated with the same toxins which killed thousands of pets in 2007, the FDA swoops in to save us all from the menace of [insert JAWS theme here] PET TURTLES:

On March 3, 2008, Strictly Reptiles Inc., a wildlife dealer in Hollywood, Fla., sold 1,000 baby yellow-bellied sliders and Mississippi map turtles to a souvenir shop in Panama City, Fla. The sale violated a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on small pet turtles designed to protect the public from the disease-causing bacteria Salmonella. Turtles often carry Salmonella on their outer skin and shell surfaces, and people can get Salmonella infection by coming in contact with turtles or their habitats.

On July 14, 2008, the U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale convicted and sentenced Strictly Reptiles for its role in illegally selling, and offering for sale, live undersized turtles. The Florida District of FDA’s law enforcement arm, the Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the case leading to the conviction, with help from FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

OK well I guess the melamine contamination is not such a worry after all. In fact, the FDA has flip-flopped on the whole melamine safety issue. When we learned about the toxin being in pet food last year, the FDA said it had “no approved use in human or animal food in the United States” and there was no safe level of melamine in foods. I’m a layman but this made sense to me since melamine is the material they use to make things like dinnerware and the Magic Eraser. But after discovering melamine and cyanuric acid in human foods this Fall, the FDA created a safety level for the poisons, except for baby milk. Now in an Olympic medal worthy double flip-flop, the FDA has determined safe levels of melamine and cyanuric acid for baby formula. I’ll have one Magic Eraser on an edible melamine plate TO GO and give me a kiddie meal of cyanuric acid on the side please.

But regarding the super-dee-duper dangerous pet turtles, the FDA really had to take a stand. Some things are too important to let slide (little turtle pun there – you’re welcome). See, the FDA warns us:

Small pet turtles are of particular concern because children are more prone to handling the turtles without washing their hands afterwards, and even putting the turtles in their mouths.

OK I admit I didn’t have a pet turtle as a kid. So perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that I never put one in my mouth. I do remember having a mouse and surely at some point I put him in my mouth but apparently that memory has been blocked. But one thing I do recall trying is dog food. In fact, I think I tried it because all the other kids I knew had tried it and I didn’t want to lose my status in the Nerd Society. Maybe you or your kid has put dog biscuits or cat food or dog kibble in their mouths too. Well I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news, May 2008:

A salmonella outbreak that swept 19 U.S. states in late 2006 has been a mystery, until now.

Nearly 200 consumers were sickened by what investigators believed to be tainted tomatoes, or other produce.

But now, the Centers for Disease Control says the apparent source of the 2006 salmonella outbreak was tainted dog food.

More bad news, September 2008:

[P]et food is being voluntarily recalled because of potential contamination with Salmonella serotypeSchwarzengrund.
[…]
Salmonella can cause serious infections in dogs and cats, and, if there is cross contamination caused by handling of the pet food, in people as well, especially children, the aged, and people with compromised immune systems.

Still more bad news, October 2008:

The Hartz Mountain Corporation is recalling one lot of its chicken-basted rawhide chips because of possible Salmonella contamination.

Even more-more bad news, November 2008:

Mars Petcare US is extending a recall of dry pet food after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported finding Salmonella in additional samples of the company’s SPECIAL KITTY Gourmet Blend cat food.

The earlier recall, issued October 27, was for cat food produced at Mars’ Allenton, Pa., plant on August 11, 2008. The recall is now being extended to cover all dry pet food produced at the plant with a “best by” date between August 11, 2009 and October 3, 2009.

Holy Bad Bacteria Batman – this is starting to look like a pattern! The FDA SWAT team response to all these Salmonella pet food issues? *crickets*

But before we judge the FDA too harshly for apparently protecting big business over American citizens, let us not forget their swift and decisive take down action on the pet turtle threat. I think we’ll all sleep a little better knowing that there are some safety issues that really bring the FDA out of their shells. (You’re welcome, redux.)

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1 Comment

  1. ezbuddy

     /  July 24, 2011

    ……………………………………… I’ve had those little pet turtles from the time I was 6 to 16. Many of them. One, named ‘Hercules,’ for over 8 or 9 years. Many stores sold them. Never was I ever sick with salmonella. I even accidentally dropped one in my stew I was eating, without harm to me but the turtle didn’t like it.
    I was really surprised when they stopped selling them, saying because of salmonella, because I never heard of any other kid getting sick either. The many turtles brought home, rescued from crossing streets, never made anyone sick except my dad’s attitude.

    Reply

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