Saturday, December 11, 2010

Feds Drop the Ball on Egg Safety

Today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune features a front page story: Tainted Eggs and Fractured Oversight that reveals that in addition to mismanagement at two large Iowa egg farms that sickened 1,900 people, the federal government did not have rules on safe egg production until this past July! Among the findings mentioned in the story:

• "There are more than 15 federal agencies and 71 interagency agreements dealing with food safety. Experts in public health and government accountability say that fragmentation weakens oversight, wastes tax dollars through redundancy and creates dangerous gaps."

• Both Bush and Clinton administrations stalled rules.

• The company responsible for the salmonella outbreak operates 73 different egg production facilities.

• "The health of chickens falls under the USDA, but the FDA oversees the safety of whole eggs. Once an egg is broken and made into an "egg product" responsibility for its safety switches back to the USDA."

• "Over the past five years, the FDA has sent inspectors to just a handful of more than 4,000 egg farms in the country. . ."

• "From May to August this year, USDA officials did not pass along to the FDA concerns about sanitation problems that they had noticed repeatedly in the packing houses at Wright County Egg . . . dirty equipment, unsanitary cooler and storage areas, eggs left unrefrigerated overnight, and the presence of bugs. . ."

No wonder citizens concerned about food safety are interested in having more control over their eggs!

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