NPR's trendy Salmonella gossip | Writing | Food Newsie

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NPR's trendy Salmonella gossip

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NPR's trendy Salmonella gossip

A recent post on NPR The Salt meant to caution backyard chicken farmers reads as alarmist cry when a Salmonella outbreak in Ohio is attributed to the trend of suburban chicken farmers rather than to the source. A chicken hatchery in Ohio, Mt. Healthy Hatcheries, Inc. distributed scores of chicks carrying salmonella. Three investigations led by the CDC converged into one, massive investigation finding 195 people in 27 states infected with what’s informally called human salmonella.

Salmonella comes in a seemingly infinite number of scientific varieties; not all affect humans, not all affect foul or chickens and when a human does contract a strain of salmonella, the death rate in the United States is .0002% of roughly 142,000 cases annually. That’s two ten-thousandths of a percent. As with most infections, victims tend to have compromised immune systems; in the case of Ohio’s salmonella hatchery outbreak, almost 30% of those infected were age ten and younger.

The NPR report is accurate, the sources are original, but 147 comments in three days to awarded writer, Nancy Shute’s post, Backyard Chickens: Cute, Trendy Spreaders Of Salmonella is backyard chicken enthusiasts crying foul on the fairness of the post. Salmonella is nasty – no doubt about it. What’s gone wrong is that NPR’s biggest audience, a public willing enough to steer back to the way food was, seems in this article to be under attack from their favorite news source. For brevity, the website posts ‘best’ comments first:

Kelly Kay with 160 “Votes up” says, Looking at the link here is an excerpt from the headline: ….“Infections Linked to Live Poultry from a Single Mail-Order Hatchery in Ohio” Your article makes it sound like it is a bad idea to have back yard chickens, when in fact it is just a bad idea to buy from this hatchery, which is NEVER named. Like everyone else is saying: Wash your hands!

Just the facts, please

The Ohio hatchery responsible for sending out infected chicks, Mt. Healthy Hatcheries, Inc, says, “the company is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state officials. They also say they’re working with their suppliers of hatching eggs and chicks.” Source. One of the most careless ways to sicken your flock is to violate biosecurity measures. Cross contamination from one farm to the next is to be minimized.

The backyard farm is a small ecosystem all its own. Boots on one urban farm can introduce foreign bacteria to another. Mt. Healthy is a participant in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP) intended to eliminate certain strains of Salmonella that cause illness in poultry-breeding flocks and hatcheries. Source. It’s all working the way it’s supposed to through a CDC-organized PulseNet designed to monitor for just such an event – but for the hatchery? In as many years, this is the second outbreak tied to the operation.

Salmonella is some wacky stuff – Sources include infected food, poor hygiene, polluted surfaces, unhygienically thawed foul and associations with reptiles. In all cases, it’s contact with excrement that bears most of the blame. Preventive measures are no more complicated than washing hands, dedicating a pair of boots per backyard farm and using caution when cross-transporting foul; Ohio’s Mt. Healthy stated they’re working with their outside suppliers of hatching eggs and chicks. This tactfully diffuses blame, but shipping groups of foul from multiple origins is also considered a large risk.

NPR's trendy Salmonella gossip

When asked for comment, this backyard chicken, free of Salmonella, responded, "Nancy who?" And dashed off to conduct important chicken business stating we could use the image because, "Behold, I'm a beautiful friggin' bird."

Many visitors to the NPR website for which Nancy Shute is a regular guest blogger, were varied and sometimes misinformed. One blogger suggests that introducing your body to dirt that anti-bacterial fads have been shirking make people stronger. The notion of a tummy full of preventive bacteria, or “gut garden,” said Edward Connell, can’t really help you here. Another comment by Brim Stone is right in a plea that people not to confuse, “bacterial autoimmunity with viral autoimmunity. No matter how many times a person gets salmonellosis, (you) can get it again.”

Hobby Farmers are working hard to become more Independent. As working to be independent becomes more trendy, it’s looking like some suppliers that began as independent family businesses will absorb more risk to fill bigger quotas; this is a tipping point when quantity gets away from the original mission of quality. There’s no harm in saying, proudly, “Sorry, we’re sold out!” Backyard farmers do that all the time and as the facts go, the CDC was clearly responsible for saving these backyard farmers from lawsuits and identifying the true Spreaders of Salmonella, Mt. Healthy Hatcheries, as they attempted to cash in on a trend and violated a basic measure of biosecurity that matters on even the smallest scale.

TRIVIA! There’s also a strain of Salmonella directly associated with Guatemalan Cantaloupes! We don’t suppose Chute will scare people about that until the Guatemalan Garden becomes a bigger trend.

1 Responses to "NPR's trendy Salmonella gossip"

Farmrgirl says:

Boo on Nancy Shute! Spreading propaganda like that…

I usually find NPR to be a reliable source but I have to call “Bulls-t” on Ms. Shute’s salmonilla research (or lack thereof). And shame on Mt. Healthy for failing to keep basic biosecurity in place… they should have their NPIP certification pulled.

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