Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

Reptiles' frozen rodent treats sicken dozens of pet owners

Reptile owners around the country are on alert. Two federal agencies are investigating. At least 37 people in 18 states have gotten sick. Five had to be hospitalized.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, the cause of all this is a dose of salmonella that can be traced back to a product sold by a Florida company.

The product: frozen mice, suitable for feeding to your pet snake.

The mice — and, if you order the large size, rats — are packaged and marketed under the name "Arctic Mice." These frozen treats have been "raised in a sanitary environment" and "formula fed to provide superior nutrition for reptiles" and as a result they are "readily accepted by snakes and carnivorous lizards," according to the listing at PetSmart, which sells them.

Arctic Mice — please don't call them "mice-cicles" — are produced by Reptile Industries, a company started 30 years ago in Naples. Founders Mark and Kim Bell, according to a 2011 government report, are among a small group of reptile professionals who "have pioneered and expanded captive breeding within the United States." Their company's website boasts that their family-run operation is now the largest reptile breeder in America.

On Tuesday the CDC and the FDA issued a warning to "pet owners who have purchased frozen rodents packaged by Reptile Industries, Inc., since Jan. 11, 2014, advising that these products have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella."

The Bells could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but through their daughter, Jamie Cassin, they released a statement that said they were cooperating with the FDA and CDC investigation. They said they have recalled some of their Arctic Mice — but not all of them.

"Reptile Industries Inc. has continued to sample bulk product as well as audit individual product for salmonella," they said. "No positive test results for the Arctic Mice brand frozen rodents have been received from the third-party testing conducted by Reptile Industries, Inc."

So despite requests from the CDC and FDA that they recall all their Arctic Mice sold since January, when the first person fell ill, the company is only recalling one lot from April. That's the only one at their facility that tested positive for salmonella.

The salmonella investigation "will be a huge financial impact for us," Cassin said in a tearful interview Wednesday. She said she feared that the company she has known since she was a child might not survive the lost sales and heightened federal scrutiny, and at the very least layoffs of some long-time employees may be necessary.

Federal officials want Reptile Industries to consider installing equipment to subject its mice and rats to radiation prior to packing them up for sale, she said, but that might prove to be too expensive. While negotiations continue the company has stopped production of arctic mice, she said.

"We don't know what the future holds," she said.

Salmonella infection is a constant risk for reptile owners. The bacteria that causes it lives on their animals and in the animals' intestines, and also is on the rodents they feed to their pets. Freezing the mice and rats won't kill the bacteria, either.

So snake and lizard fanciers have to wash their hands thoroughly after feedings and take other measures to avoid an infection that leads to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.

The whole feeding process can be complicated. As with your Birdseye brand Salisbury steak, frozen mice and rats need to thaw out to be appetizing. The PetSmart website warns in bold letters: Do not microwave.

Instead, the future snake food must sit in a cup of water for 30 minutes. Then the owner can feed it to hungry Slythern the snake — holding it with tongs "to avoid accidental bites from your reptile" and shaking it a bit to make it seem alive.

Although Reptile Industries and its subsidiary ReptMart.com — "the world's premier online supplier of snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, supplies and more" — offer a wide variety of homegrown products, the mice and rats they sell are the one thing that is not bred on-site, Cassin said.

"We get them from a variety of other places around the U.S.," she said. "It's hard to trace back where that one that tested positive came from."

Comments
Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.The postseason intensity never did.For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-1...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by the how the Florida black bear roamed — and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of ...
Published: 04/22/18
Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. – Sean Manaea watched as Marcus Semien fired a ball from short to second baseman Jed Lowrie, turned around, and jumped into the arms of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. History was made at the Coliseum.Manaea no-hit the Red Sox on ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored 1:19 apart in the second period, and then the Maple Leafs killed off a 5-on-3 and three more power plays in a row to beat the Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 on Saturday night and avoid playoff eliminatio...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

TAMPA — It was a couple of days after the Lightning beat the Bruins at home late in the regular season when associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how the defensive effort used in that shutout victory was the one the Lightning would need in ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

TAMPA — Pardon Mikhail Sergachev if he isn't so good at one of hockey's greatest traditions. After all, growing a Stanley Cup playoff beard isn't easy when you're still just a teenager.As he stood in the Lightning locker room Saturday evening w...
Updated: 6 hours ago