Farmers fight FDA over pet turtle ban
October 4, 2006
Farmers are battling the FDA over the legality of turtles that were once commonly kept as pets according to an article in today’s issue of The Wall Street Journal.
In the 1960s and 1970s,the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) a species native to central and southern Louisiana, was widely sold in pet stores. Louisiana farmers bred the reptiles, which grow to about a foot long and can live more than 30 years, in fish ponds and sold millions of turtles each year.
Then in 1975 the FDA banned the sale of turtles for the pet trade citing their tendency to harbor salmonella bacteria, which poses a threat to human health. Following the ban, turtle-related salmonella cases plunged, according to the article.
Now turtle farmers want the market re-opened. Ailing from a drop in demand from China — where the turtles are not kept as pets but eaten — breeders are lobbying the FDA to reverse the decision. They say that new sterilization techniques can reduce the incidence of salmonella significantly.
Still, the paper says, the FDA is biting. Until salmonella can be fully eliminated or proof emerges than turtles can’t be re-infected, the agency isn’t likely to budge due to the risk to children.
This article is based on “In Corridors of Power, Farmers, FDA Tussle Over Tiniest of Turtles” by Anna Wilde Mathews. The article appeared in The Wall Street Journal on October 4, 2006.