It’s what no one wanted to happen during the government shutdown, or really at any time. A breakout of salmonella in contaminated chicken meat from the firm Foster Farms has caused “an estimated 278 illnesses . . . reported in 18 states,” according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (FSIS). They are “unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period” and the outbreak is continuing.

What does all this mean during the government shutdown? A CDC staffer told Maryn McKenna, “I know that we will not be conducting multi-state outbreak investigations.  States may continue to find outbreaks, but we won’t be doing the cross-state consultation and laboratory work to link outbreaks that might cross state borders.”

In essence, the research that could be done to investigate the full size and seriousness of the outbreak will not be happening. Furthermore, Mckenna states, “Scientists couldn’t work on this if they wanted to; they have been locked out of their offices, lab and emails.”

However, according to U.S. media reports, the CDC on Tuesday recalled some of its staff to re-open a network of public health labs that monitor for food-borne outbreaks.

Taylor Dobbs, a reporter at Vermont Public Radio, has identified the 18 states where cases have been found: Arizona, Arkansas, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. Currently, no recall is in effect and Foster Farms claims that the meat is safe to eat if cooked properly. Just ignore that Salmonella aftertaste.

It is the second time this year that Foster Farms has been linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak. In July, according to the CDC, 134 people in 13 states were made ill by chicken linked to two Foster Farms slaughterhouses. In this previous case, the outbreak was antibiotic resistant as it is again in this outbreak. This is yet another reason why antibiotics in feed are harmful.

A big part of the role that the government plays in animal related issues is being the one to link research across state lines. A massive dolphin die-off is occurring from New York to North Carolina and researchers are at a standstill on how to address the issue. Experts say many of the dead dolphins suffered from morbillivirus, an ailment related to the measles. However, until they can look at the big picture and see how the issue is developing outside of their respective states, the issue is on hold.

Image Source: Matt Churchill/Flickr