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    An analytical chemist shows a petri dish with salmonella in the Institute for Chemical and Veterinary Research in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany

    'The Pain Was Immense': Rare Strain Salmonella Victim Shares Horrible Experience

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    Fears over food safety in the US and post-Brexit UK rise, as government records expose the ‘dirty’ meat preparation habits of US meat farms. Sputnik spoke with Ken Koehler, a US citizen with firsthand experience of the dangers of contaminated meat- when he contracted an antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella, from his hamburger.

    Sputnik: Can you describe your experience with food-borne illness?

    Ken Koehler: I had bought a 3 pound package of ground beef, which I had bought in a supermarket in Maine. I brought it home, split it up into 3 packages and cooked burgers that night.

    It was about 4 days later that I became very ill. I thought it was just a stomach virus, but I was pretty much living in the bathroom for a few days with vomiting and diarrhea. It was uncontrollable and the pain was immense. It wasn't subsiding, and I was getting severely dehydrated, and it was suggested I go to the hospital. They took me straight to the ER (emergency room) and I was put on IV fluids. I had noticed I was in a room that was separate from the ER room which I found odd. They did a number of blood tests on me, which came back after 12 hours there. After 3 litres of fluid, they found that I was sickened by Salmonella Poisoning.

    I was released, still feeling very bad. 2 days later, I received a call from the Center for Disease Control, who informed me that I was infected with a very rare strain of salmonella, one that had been only previously recorded in 18 other cases in the US. I was the 19th case. After an hour of talking to me, they narrowed it down to this ground beef package. I told them I still had 2 packs left in the freezer. It seems as though within 10 minutes there was someone there knocking at my door to collect those packages. Those packages tested positive for this rare strain of salmonella. It was at that point that the supermarket did a recall. They had not done a recall up until that point, even though they knew that it was their ground beef that was sickening people.

    Sputnik: Once you knew you had been infected with Salmonella, what went through your mind?

    Ken Koehler: It was a couple months before I was able to eat solid food. There was only one antibiotic able to kill the virus. I am just happy that I wasn't allergic to that antibiotic. There was one person that was sickened in New York City who was in the hospital for about a year, because he was allergic to it. Because of this, I started doing my own investigation. How did this happen? Here we trust our government to look out for our food, and to do things right. From what I found that doesn't seem to the case.

    I wanted to know where the meat came from, and nobody could tell me. According to the supermarket chain, they get ground beef from a variety of sources. When it comes into the store it is undocumented. It's not traceable. They have no idea who supplied them the bad meat. To me, that just seems absurd- you know? How does that happen?

    I got a very good education from what’s called The Pews Charitable Trust. They have done their own research on this, and they actually have farmers involved. The level of antibiotics that are given to animals is off the charts. 80% of all antibiotics produced in the United States go to help the animals. By providing healthy animals with antibiotics when they aren't even sick, makes them useless for when humans get sick. The lack of tractability is because the suppliers are very well protected.

    Sputnik: What would you recommend for people who want to increase food safety, and reduce their chances of contracting a food-borne illness?

    Ken Koehler: What I do now is I warn people in the grocery store about buying grocery store meat. Go to your local farmer. Know where your meat comes from! Find a local farmer, with organic beef, eat organic meats. And that goes for vegetables too! It's not just meat; vegetables are in the same category now.

    Make sure, because for me, I wasn't sickened by eating the meat, I was sickened by handling the meat, and that was the difference. I washed my hands before, and I washed my hands after, but the short time I handled the meat was enough to get me sick.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    meat, food safety, salmonella outbreak, United States
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