Contrary to advertisements on the Internet, claims of now being safe and salmonella-free, and hundreds being sold by an area pet store that believed sales were legal, in fact the ban on the sale of baby red-eared slider turtles is still very much in place.

The FDA banned the sale in the United States of any turtle with a carapace length of less than four inches in 1975 because of the public health impact of turtle-associated salmonellosis.

That ban is absolutely still in place, said Dr. Joseph Paige, veterinarian and director of compliance at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. He said there are many misconceptions being circulated throughout the country via the internet and other sources, but the simple fact is the sales are still against the law and those violating the law are subject to fines of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison per offense.

Paige said the Illinois district office of the FDA will be investigating the sales of baby turtles in Southern Illinois as well as the sources of those turtles in Texas and anywhere else. He said Internet sales, where the local pet store reportedly received the "salmonella-free" turtles are illegal as well. He could not comment on what specific penalties may be meted out in connection with the sale of hundreds of turtles in Southern Illinois.