An animal rights group dedicated to "end animal exploitation, cruelty, and abuse by protecting and advocating for the rights, welfare, and habitats of animals" says the salmonella outbreak that has sparked a massive egg recall is not an isolated incident and demonstrates the danger of consuming animal products.
In Defense of Animals (IDA), which is based in San Rafael, Calif., issued a press release Friday afternoon that warned against eating sick birds or their eggs.
"Hens in intensive agriculture are forced to live in miserable, frustrated existence crammed into tiny battery cages, where they are unable to walk or spread their wings," the group claimed. "They live covered in feces, often forced to share cages with the bodies of deceased neighbors. These unnatural conditions produce sick birds, which increases the likelihood of infected eggs."
But animal products are not the only foods to be recalled due to pathogens. Vegetables have been recalled in past years due to E. coli, and in some cases, these illnesses have led to death.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest identified 363 outbreaks linked to iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens, variously contaminated with E. coli, norovirus, or salmonella, which caused 13,568 cases of illness between 1990 and 2006.
In 2006, tainted spinach caused one death and 98 hospitalizations, according to the FDA; in 2007, it led to three deaths and 206 illnesses.
The FDA determined that the spinach originated from an organic spinach field. It was speculated that the spinach was tainted by irrigation water contaminated with wild pig feces.
In 2005 and 2006, tomatoes were implicated in four multistate outbreaks of salmonella, sickening hundreds of people. The CSPI found tomatoes were involved in 31 outbreaks involving 3,292 reported cases of people falling ill.
But Hope Bohanec, grassroots campaign director of IDA, said all of these vegetable outbreaks stemmed from the mistreatment of animals.
"For instance, when the spinach was recalled in California (in 2006), it was the result of a neighboring livestock yard and the manure that had run off into the spinach field," she said.
Nearly 1,300 people in 10 states have been sickened recently by salmonella in eggs, sparking a nationwide recall of 380 million eggs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday said it had not yet found clear evidence of contamination, although heavy rainfall near the Galt, Iowa, company that produced the eggs may have raised the risk of salmonella infestation from rodents.
"Yes, in this case, rodents may have defecated in the feeds," Bohanec told FoxNews.com. "It still comes back to the cruelty of animals, because of the intensive confinement that they keep animals in.
"Egg-laying hens are kept on top of one another, they can’t even spread their wings and the bacteria is going to spread like wildfire – so if they had enough room this wouldn’t be an issue. Imagine living your whole life in a crowded elevator, that’s how these animals live."