Invasion of the Pet Turtles Awaits Congressional OK

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An amendment being considered as early as today in the Senate could open U.S. markets to pet turtle sales, greatly expanding a business that's worth $9 million alone in Louisiana.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Mary Landrieu, would overturn Food and Drug Administration rules prohibiting the sale. The ban was put in place in 1975 because of concerns of salmonella. Since then, says the senator's office, new technology has been approved that can eradicate salmonella on the small turtles commonly sold as pets for children.

Currently, turtle growers in Louisiana and Mississippi sell overseas, but that market is shrinking, according to Landrieu's office. The senator also claims that the FDA has allowed the sale in the United States of pet lizards, snakes, and frogs that can carry the same health risks as turtles, so the focus on the pet turtles is unfair. Pet turtles are those that measure about 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) in diameter or less. The amendment would be placed in the FDA reauthorization bill before the Senate this week.

--Paul Bedard