- Salmonella food poisoning could permanently damage a person’s DNA, according to a Cornell University study.
- Researchers found some salmonella contains a toxin called S-CDT. In human cells grown in the lab, salmonella with the toxin was "significantly associated" with the presence of damaged DNA.
- While the study determined that not enough is known about the extent of damage from these infections, Cornell researchers said it could potentially cause long-term health problems.
An estimated 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths occur annually in the U.S. from people eating chicken, pork, peanut butter, eggs and other foods contaminated with salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite attempts by local, state and federal officials to prevent and control salmonella outbreaks, infection rates have remained relatively unchanged during the last two decades.
For food companies, outbreaks of salmonella and other foodborne illnesses can be very costly, eroding public confidence and leading to lost sales. Shares of burrito chain Chipotle have plunged 44% since a number of foodborne illness outbreaks, including E. coli and salmonella, started in 2015. The restaurant has overhauled its operations and improved customer service, but sales have been slow to rebound in the wake of the crisis.
The common salmonella strain has become resistant to many drugs, according to a CDC report. Responding to government and consumer pressure, many meat processors, including Tyson Foods and Cargill, have reduced or eliminated antibiotic use amid concerns that overuse of antibiotics is reducing their effectiveness in humans. While antibiotic-free products are more expensive to produce, they can be sold for more at the grocery store. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest grocer, last year introduced a four-step safety plan for chicken, showing how suppliers can improve their poultry policies to reduce the risk of salmonella.