Food

FDA Investigates Outbreak of Human Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Linked to Frozen Feeder Rodents Packaged by Reptile Industries Inc.

Update
June 20, 2014

In response to the investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local authorities into an outbreak of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections associated with  feeder rodents, Reptile Industries has reported withholding the frozen rodents from distribution that were associated with samples collected by FDA that showed the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella, but the firm was unable to conclusively identify and withdraw from the market all possibly contaminated products.  

PetSmart reports that it stopped selling any potentially affected product from Reptile Industries and removed the product from its stores on May 21, 2014. PetSmart also reports alerting customers for whom they had contact information and who may have purchased this product, through email and direct mail notice.  

On June 20, the CDC reported that the outbreak “appears to be over as the number of reported infections has returned to baseline levels.”  FDA completed its investigation at the firm on June 20, 2014 and is working with Reptile Industries to identify actions the firm can take as it resumes operations to help prevent future outbreaks.  

June 20, 2014

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials have been investigating illnesses in people linked to frozen feeder rodents packaged by Reptile Industries Inc. of Naples, Fla.     

What is the Problem and What is Being Done About It?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local authorities have been investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimuirum infections in people linked to frozen feeder rodents.  The FDA issued a warning on May 20, 2014 alerting the public that Arctic Mice brand frozen rodents packaged by Reptile Industries Inc. and sold at PetSmart stores since January 11, 2014, had the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.  This brand of feeder rodents, used as food for reptiles and amphibians, is packaged by Reptile Industries Inc. of Naples Fla., and sold at PetSmart stores nationwide.

Reptile Industries has reported withholding the frozen feeder rodents from distribution that were associated with samples collected by FDA that contained the outbreak strain of Salmonella, but the firm was unable to conclusively identify and withdraw from the market all possibly contaminated products. PetSmart reports that it stopped selling any potentially affected product from Reptile Industries and removed the product from its stores on May 21, 2014. PetSmart also reports alerting customers for whom they had contact information and who may have purchased this product, through email and direct mail notice. FDA completed its investigation at the firm on June 20, 2014 and is working with Reptile Industries to identify actions the firm can take as it resumes operations to help prevent future outbreaks.  

On June 20, 2014, the CDC reported that the outbreak “appears to be over as the number of reported infections has returned to baseline levels.” A total of 41 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium were reported from 21 states since January 11, 2014. The total number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Alabama (1), Arizona (2), California (7), Colorado (1), Illinois (1), Kentucky (1), Maryland (1), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Missouri (3), Montana (3), New Jersey (3), New Mexico (1), North Carolina (1), Ohio (4), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (3), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (1), and Virginia (1).

In interviews, ill persons answered questions about foods eaten and animal contact during the week before becoming ill. Twenty-two (61%) of 36 ill persons interviewed reported contact with multiple types of reptiles, including snakes and lizards. Seventeen (77%) of the 22 ill persons reporting reptile exposure were able to provide information about what the reptile was fed. Fifteen (88%) of these 17 ill persons reported exposure to frozen feeder rodents.

Testing of two frozen feeder rodent samples collected from Reptile Industries during the investigation by the FDA revealed the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella. Additionally, Oregon State Public Health Laboratory completed testing and reported isolating the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium in one sample of unused frozen mice, packaged by Reptile Industries, Inc., taken from an ill person’s home in Oregon. 

What are the Symptoms of Salmonella infection?

Feeder rodents, as well as the reptiles and amphibians they are fed to, can be sources of Salmonella infection for people.  Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

How Soon do Symptoms Appear After Exposure?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

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What are the Complications of Salmonella Infections?

In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the person needs to be hospitalized. In these people, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. 

Who is at Risk?

Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis. The rate of diagnosed infections in children less than five years old is higher than the rate in all other persons. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections. It is estimated that approximately 400 persons die each year with acute salmonellosis.

What Do Consumers Need To Do? 

Consumers who have Reptile Industries Inc.’s Arctic Mice brand frozen rodents purchased from PetSmart from January 11, 2014 through May 21, 2014, should dispose of the product by placing it in a sealed container in the trash so that no children, pets, or other animals, such as wildlife, may be able to reach it.  

Additionally, consumers who handle feeder rodents should follow these tips to reduce the risk of Salmonella infection:

  • DO thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) immediately after handling feeder rodents or anything in the area where they are stored, thawed, prepared, and fed to reptiles or amphibians.
  • DO thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces that come in contact with feeder rodents. A bleach solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) water is an effective disinfectant. For a larger supply of solution, add ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) water.
  • DO keep feeder rodents out of areas where food and drinks for people are stored, prepared, served, or eaten.
  • DON’T thaw frozen feeder rodents in a microwave oven used for human food.
  • DON’T prepare feeder rodents or feed them to your pet reptile or amphibian with kitchen utensils that you use to prepare human food.
  • DO designate separate kitchen utensils used solely for these purposes and clean and disinfect them after each use.
  • DON’T let children (especially those younger than 5 years), the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems handle or touch feeder rodents, reptiles, or amphibians.

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Who Should be Contacted? 

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the symptoms described above.

The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, or to consult the fda.gov website: www.fda.gov.


The information in this release reflects the FDA’s best efforts to communicate what it has learned from the manufacturer and the state and local public health agencies involved in the investigation. The agency will update this page as more information becomes available.

For more information: 

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Page Last Updated: 06/20/2014
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