Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vaccinations Could Prevent Salmonella Outbreaks

Vaccination of chickens in the United Kingdom is required, and the result has been the near elimination of salmonella from egg and chicken production.

So why isn't it being done in the US and elsewhere? Cost seems to be the one stumbling block, but with massive recalls underway, I suspect that the mindset will change.
Low-cost vaccines that may have helped prevent the kind of salmonella outbreak that has led to the recall of more than a half-billion eggs haven't been given to half of the nation's egg-laying hens.

The vaccines aren't required in the U.S., although in Great Britain, officials say vaccinations have given them the safest egg supply in Europe. A survey conducted by the European food safety agency in 2009 found that about 1 percent of British flocks had salmonella compared to about 60 to 70 percent of flocks elsewhere in Europe, said Amanda Cryer, spokeswoman for the British Egg Information Service.

There's been no push to require vaccination in the U.S., in part because it would cost farmers and in part because advocates have been more focused on more comprehensive food safety reforms, those watching the poultry industry said.

But Darrell Trampel, a poultry veterinarian at Iowa State University, predicted vaccination will become more common after the recent outbreak.

"I think (vaccination) will move from hit and miss to being a standard," Trampel said.

The salmonella vaccine prevents chickens from becoming infected and then passing the bacteria on to their eggs. It has been available in the U.S. since 1992.
I also think that people would be willing to pay a few cents more per package of eggs or chicken pieces if they knew that the items were vaccinated against salmonella.

The potential cost savings to the nation could be considerable given that salmonella costs $2.6 billion annually in lost productivity, hospitalization costs, and fatalities. The vaccinations would be substantially less than that, giving a net benefit to the nation's health system.

So why is the FDA still holding to the belief that vaccinations should not be mandatory - they have no problem with voluntary vaccination?

Well, critics are also attempting to focus on improving food handling and comprehensive food safety reform and avoid the issue of vaccination. That's nonsense given that this is a workable solution that can reduce the potential for outbreaks especially in conjunction with improved sanitary conditions at facilities.

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