Turtle Farmers See an Opening for a Recovery

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
14 May 2007, at 1:00am

US - In 1970, salmonellosis, a disease associated with pet turtles, was diagnosed in 250,000 American children, and by 1975 the Food and Drug Administration had imposed a ban on the sale or distribution of turtles with shells smaller than 4 inches across the size commonly sold as pets.

The ban had a multimillion-dollar impact on Louisiana. Beginning in the 1940s, the state was home to hundreds of turtle farms primarily raising red-eared sliders for pet stores across the country.

Now that scientists at Louisiana State University have developed a procedure to make baby turtles 99.9-percent salmonella free, two Republican congressmen from Louisiana, Senator David Vitter and Representative Rodney Alexander, have introduced legislation directing the F.D.A. to lift the ban. And Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, attached an amendment ending the ban to a wide-ranging bill affecting the F.D.A. that has passed the Senate. Vitter is a co-sponsor of the Landrieu amendment, which still needs House approval.

“The F.D.A. is holding pet turtles to a standard that is impossible to reach — one that even food products are not expected to attain,” Mr. Vitter said in an interview about his legislation.

Turtle farmers question why the F.D.A. singled out turtles when other pets, like lizards and birds, also carry salmonella.

Louisiana has more than 60 turtle farms, mostly in northern Louisiana, and the state Department of Agriculture estimates turtles are a $9.4 million industry.

“Over the years, they had a fairly limited marketing outlet,” said Greg Lutz, aquaculture specialist at the L.S.U. AgCenter Aquaculture Research Station.

Source: The New York Times