Presumably, conventional wisdom would portray small turtles as a cute, safe, educational pet for the home or classroom. Awareness is lacking however, of the potential threat of Salmonella infection associated with turtles less than 4 inches in length. For more than 30 years, commercial distribution of such animals has been banned by the FDA. It has been estimated that the FDA ban prevents some 100,000 cases of salmonellosis among children each year.

Recent events reiterate the need to increase awareness of the risk associated with small turtles. According to the Boston Herald, a turtle in an area classroom is suspected as the source of a Salmonella outbreak. There are 11 confirmed and as many as 50 possible ill students.

Seattle lawfirm Marler Clark is currently investigating the causes of two severe Salmonella illnesses in small children last summer that appear linked to illegally sold turtles. Both young children were hospitalized for several days. Each of the children’s families purchased turtles measuring less than four inches at different locations of the same chain of beach souvenir stores in the Gulf Coast region of the United States. The FDA investigated one of the two illnesses, but the results of the investigation have not yet been made public.

Until knowledge of the FDA ban and the potential risk of Salmonella associated with turtles becomes more widespread, many children across the U.S. will remain at risk of falling ill.