Believe it or not, there is currently no ban on the sale of meat containing certain antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella. This is because the pathogen is not currently classified as an adulterant. On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to protect the public by allowing the sale of Salmonella-contaminated meat to continue. The USDA has declined to comment on the court filing.

The lawsuit was filed by the consumer group, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Currently, the U.S. government bans the sale of adulterated meat and poultry for human consumption, Fox News reported. Unfortunately, Salmonella does not fall into this category. Meat containing the pathogen will still pass inspection and be sold. The group has asked the court to require the USDA to respond to a three-year-old petition where CSPI urges the agency to prevent the sale of tainted meat.The lawsuit demands that this rule be changed for over four drug-resistant strains of Salmonella. "USDA takes action only after people start becoming ill from these life-threatening antibiotic-resistant superbugs," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal in a statement.

Based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella contamination causes an individual to develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps that can last up to a week. Most individuals do not need treatment; however, in some cases, the diarrhea is so bad that hospitalization is required. Antibiotics are required when the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream and is able to infect other areas of the body.

CSPI cited that in the year 2011 alone there were nearly 200 cases of illness, 47 hospitalizations, and one death caused by the drug-resistant strain of Salmonella. One million Americans fall ill from Salmonella contamination every year. In its statement, the CSPI explains how, between 2012 and 2014, two separate outbreaks were linked to tainted Foster Farms chicken parts contaminated with an antibiotic-resistant form of Salmonella. These outbreaks caused more than 650 people to fall ill.

"It is time for USDA to declare these dangerous resistant strains as adulterants and then require industry to conduct aggressive testing to keep meat and poultry contaminated with these strains out of the food supply, as it does with products contaminated with dangerous strains of E. coli," Smith DeWaal added in the CSPI statement.

The recent rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria has caused great concern for both health officials and the public. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization released a report on the subject and described the current level of antibiotic resistance as a “major global threat.” Last year, the FDA released a set of guidelines for drugmakers and agricultural companies to discontinue the use of antibiotics to enhance the growth in livestock.

However this was only a suggestion, not a rule. According to the FDA, these guidelines were an effort to curb the increasing number of “superbugs” and prevent their spread. Carrington College Group reports that as much as 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. each year are used in food for animals.