Last August, officials recalled a shocking 380 million eggs from an Iowa producer when they were found to harbor salmonella bacteria. Since then, it has seemed like eggs have gotten safer. New federal regulations were issued for the production of eggs. And the Humane Society and the United Egg Producers came to a historic agreement on hens' living conditions, which could help stave off future disease.
But today, a blistering report from the Des Moines Register showed just how far Iowa has to go on egg safety. The paper's investigation uncovered massive holes in regulation. It found, among other shocking lapses, that the state of Iowa has no protocols for inspecting egg farms, that many major egg producers hadn't been visited by a federal inspector in years, and that egg producers are required to test for salmonella, but not to report positive results to any government agency.
In one passage, reminiscent of Obama's famous State of the Union mockery of salmon regulation, the Register highlighted the Byzantine web of federal oversight regulations regarding eggs:
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the health of chickens, while the FDA is responsible for whole eggs. Oversight shifts back to the USDA when it comes to transportation of whole eggs. Broken eggs, which are made into liquid egg products, are overseen by the USDA, but the FDA oversees the storage of eggs at the retail level. The USDA grades eggs in production facilities, but health inspections in those same facilities falls to the FDA, which, until last year, had no rules or standards to enforce.
The paper argued that these gaps in oversight increase the eggs' risk of salmonella contamination in the number one egg-producing state. But the report included a note of reassurance from food safety consultant Jeff Nelken, who said eggs were generally safe.
Read the full report, in all its grisly detail, on the Register website.
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