In the 1960s and 70s, the red-eared slider turtle was the “it” pet to have. These little turtles were very popular with children, until it was found out that these trendy pets shed salmonella. Children were becoming infected when they touched the turtles and put their fingers in their mouths or when they put the whole turtles in their mouths. (I totally don’t remember doing this.) Every year, there were about 100,000 cases of salmonella sickness due to baby turtles or other pet reptiles.
In 1975, the FDA banned the sale of these turtles. After the ban, the number of salmonella cases decreased by 25%.
Now, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana says it is time to lift the ban on these baby turtles because of a new technology that was developed. She says that the Siebeling Method disinfects turtle eggs, so baby turtles will be free of salmonella. Senator Landrieu has introduced an amendment to the FDA Revitalization Act to permit their sale. States would have to issue a certificate of sanitization signed by a federally certified veterinarian to guarantee that turtles being sold have been treated by the Siebeling or a similar method.
The FDA says that although the method does drastically reduce the presence of salmonella on the turtle, it does not eliminate it. Turtles can continue to shed salmonella through their lifetime. The Humane Society of the United States would like to see the ban remain in place because of health risks, and they say that many turtles die during the poor shipping process, and many people release these turtles into the wild which can lead to a spread of disease and parasites to wild turtles.
The House is expected to vote on the amendment today.