We Americans like our eggs.
American egg producers provide us with about 76 billion eggs a year, which averages out to 242 eggs per capita.
But their safety can be iffy for two reasons: Salmonella and cholesterol.
Since the 1980s, more and more eggs have gotten contaminated with pathogenic Salmonella enteriditis, in part because of the increasing size of egg farms, and in part because of long delays in safety rules.
Salmonella is a preventable problem.
Producers must use clean food and water, probiotics to prevent development of pathogenic bacteria in hen intestines, and vaccines as necessary. They also must keep eggs cold.
I discussed all this in my book What to Eat, in a chapter I called “Eggs and the Salmonella Problem.” In it, I reviewed some history:
- 1997 Center for Science in the Public Interest petitions the FDA to do insist that egg farms follow standard food safety procedur.
- 1999 The FDA requires Safe Handling labels on egg cartons and refrigeration during storage and transport.
- 2004 The FDA proposes safety rules for on-farm egg production.
- 2009 The FDA issues rules to be implemented in 2010 for egg producers with 50,000 or more hens, and 2012 for producers with 3,000 or more.
And it updated its Egg Safety home page.
Still to come: rules for producers of organic eggs that allow hens access to the outdoors.
But maybe we shouldn’t be eating so many eggs anyway?
A recent Canadian study associates eating egg yolks with formation of plaques in coronary arteries.
The egg industry doesn’t like this study much.
Eggs have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits, providing 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein and antioxidants, all for just 70 calories.
It cites other studies giving different results.
These findings are surprising and contradict more than 40 years of research demonstrating that healthy adults can enjoy eggs without significantly impacting their risk of heart disease.
I like eggs. I vote for everything in moderation on this one. But having seen industrial egg facilities, I’m buying them from farmers’ markets these days—for reasons of food safety, animal welfare, and taste.