by Marion Nestle
Aug 26 2010

Egg industry response to recalls (in translation)

How is the egg industry handling the recalls?

Yesterday, major newspapers ran a full-page ad from “America’s Egg Farmers” (I saw it in USA Today and in the New York Times). The ad displays an egg and text on a white background, nothing more.

The text is spare and notable more for what it does not say than for what it does. Here it is, with my translations in red italics.

A message from America’s Egg Farmers. We want you to think that we are down home farmers of small flocks of hens in a lovely bucolic settings. We think this sounds better than “A message from egg agribusiness.”

You’ve probably heard about the recent egg recall. We wish you hadn’t.

As egg farmers, we’re concerned, and continue to work closely with the FDA and USDA to help ensure the safest and highest quality eggs possible. We don’t have to take any responsibility for this mess. We will let the FDA and USDA deal it.

The potentially affected eggs, which make up less than 1% of all US eggs, have been removed from store shelves. Whew.  The problem is solved. We don’t need to do another thing except work on public relations.

You may be wondering if eggs are safe to eat. We wish you would just forget about this.

Yes, they are.  Fingers crossed!

Thoroughly cooked eggs are thoroughly safe eggs, according to the Center for Disease control and the FDA. Eggs should be cooked until the whites and yolks are firm. We know we are producing unsafe eggs.  It’s not our fault if you don’t know how to cook them.

To find out more information on this recall and the safe handling of eggs, please visit When you do, we will tell you how safe our eggs are and how well we treat our hens, and invite you to watch an FDA video on how to cook eggs properly.

And remember, thoroughly cooked means thoroughly safe. It’s not our fault if you don’t listen.

I think the egg industry has a lot to answer for. It needs to do better than this. OK egg industry, how about placing an ad that says something like this:

  • We are devastated that this happened and our hearts go out to everyone who became ill and to their families.
  • We are taking every step to make sure that this never happens again.
  • We are deeply sorry that our industry did not voluntarily adopt safety procedures years ago, especially when the FDA first proposed egg safety rules in 2004.
  • We take full responsibility as an industry for the failure of one of our members to obey the law.
  • We will do everything possible to make sure that the victims of this incident are fully compensated for their medical costs and losses.
  • We fully support food safety legislation and urge the Senate to pass S.510 immediately. It will give the FDA the tools it needs to do its job and help us produce eggs under the safest possible conditions.
  • We apologize to the American public that our eggs are not safe enough and that we have not worked hard enough to make sure that they are safe.

I can dream, can’t I?

  • Renee

    I think it’s particularly funny to tell people to cook eggs thoroughly in order for them to be safe to eat! Yesterday I heard part of an NPR interview with some scientist about this issue, and he also said that we just need to make sure we thoroughly cook our eggs. The interviewer responded “Yuck!”

    Somehow, I don’t think that a hard-boiled egg is anyone’s first choice when it comes to eating eggs. If it was, people wouldn’t be getting sick.

  • Perhaps it’s time for people to disengage from their attachment to eggs as a daily menu choice.

    There are many healthy affordable breakfast alternatives such as fresh seasonal fruit with nuts or nut butter. Home made fruit smoothies. Baked squash or sweet potato.

    Lisa B

  • Pete

    Brilliant! I love this post! I do this same type of line by line translation to educate parents on ads targeting kids. Love it! I also love eggs and eat lots of them, at least 4 whole organic omega 3 eggs every day and some whites as well. It’s the perfect food. If people were still eating eggs instead of cereal fro breakfast we’d be much better off… no I won’t go down that road again. The best eggs I used to get were off the Amish farm in Lancaster. There was this old fridge you would pull up to and get your eggs. There was no cashier or anyone at all watching, you just left a dollar in a tin can for every dozen eggs you took. Can you imagine that in NYC?!?! Although, I have seen studies where people are pretty honest in those situations because they think someone is watching them.

  • Ben Boom

    You go, Marion! This is a perfectly deadly satire on their response. (Except that it’s not really a satire…) I would love to see it circulated on a much bigger stage.

  • maria

    Marion, your commentary is hilarious and it’s spot on.
    Did they really just tell me how to cook my freaking eggs? So, I can’t make homemade mayo with your eggs (not that I ever would with these)? No soft boil? Should I cook them until the yolk turns green? This ad is a giant slap in the face, especially the “less than 1%” part. It’s also quite patronizing. As in, sure, we made some people sick, but it’s not *that* many and it’s your fault for not cooking the egg properly. I’ve sometimes caved and bought the cheaper eggs but never again. I’m totally expecting a lil’ tutorial video to go up on an egg site somewhere on how to cook eggs.

  • Love it.

    I like to hear your personal take on things. I think that the wording of this ad is actually more snarky and more ridculous than other industry’s responses to other recalls. So I believe that they have opened themselves up to scrutinty.

    I still think eggs are an excellent daily choice. I recently read an article stating that DIETARY cholestrol was not the major source of cholestrol in our bodies. Our own bodies produce cholestrol, and produce more when we eat more saturated fats. If we could cut down on so much corn fed beef we’d probably have healthier cholestrol levels even if we all ate 2 eggs a day. Now if we could only get them safe for everyone.

  • … so I guess that means carbonara is out?

    Too bad. It’s one of my favorite dishes. Thanks for the post. I was laughing out loud in my office. It’s just really sad that we are even here to begin with. Tougher food regs NOW!

  • Bobby

    Marion, Saturday Night Live on line 1.
    Marion, John Stewart on Line 2
    Marion, Stephen Colbert on Line 3

    Careful, you are so funny and accurate at skewering the egg merchants-of-death that you have a career in satire if protecting public health becomes too much work.

  • Anthro

    I’ll just add my applause to that above. I was wondering if all these sick people had made Caesar dressing with raw eggs (as I have done for many years and will continue to do–but I have hens), but my husband said, “no, it’s cooked eggs”. I thought that was odd because I thought that cooking would kill the harmful bacteria, but apparently, these eggs are SO bad, that they must be cooked a LOT. I am a bit curious about this aspect of this debacle. I’m not excusing them, they should all be safe enough to eat raw, or certainly soft-boiled or “sunny-side up”.

  • Cathy Richards

    Too funny Marion. You missed one interpretation:

    “We lobby really hard to be able to continue to raise and process eggs in environments that increase the risk of contamination so we can pay egg farmers less and keep the cost of eggs to consumers low. This helps increase costs to the FDA and food systems due to recalls, and increase antibiotic resistant bacteria. The government pays, not you! Well, not really. We guess you pay taxes for the government, but oh well.

    Best of all, we get to write off our lobbying costs, and increase our profit margin.

    Everything is increased! All you need to do is cook our possibly contaminated eggs from maltreated chickens well. Win win win!”

  • Well, I have to confess I was laughing out loud too, but what I posted on my bilingual blog from Democracy Now is not a laughing matter.

  • I refuse to live life in fear. I just made some incredible homemade mayonnaise and it was so much better than that store bought stuff. As a few commenters have said, hard boiled eggs? blech (most of the time).

    I wish this country wasn’t full of over opinionated jerks so we could actually do something productive. Europe irradiates (I wish there was a better word) their fresh food to kill all bacteria, but we refuse to do it here, UGH!

  • MA

    Awesome post! Love the interpretation! You nailed it.

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  • Love this. Yes, it’s all about the spin …

  • Thank you for being such a refreshing voice of reason Marion!

  • Dead-on Marion, thanks for the comic relief. Industry cannot take responsibility publicly for a couple of reasons. One, the inevitable lawsuits are already being filed, so they worry about public statements that could make them liable in court. Second, to admit they did something wrong means they would have to actually change their practices, something they cannot afford to do to stay competitive. Finally, this PR campaign is all about restoring consumer confidence, to make sure that Americans keep buying eggs, and especially industrial eggs; can’t let the local food movement gain any more market share. I fear when this all dies down, it will just become the latest example of the cost of doing business for Big Ag. Our only hope for change is stepped up laws that are actually enforced, with real consequences for violators.

  • If everyone were to raise their own, or help a SMALL time farmer to raise some for them (as a co-op kind of thing) there would be much less sickness among meat eaters.

  • Sheila

    Do I need to maybe bleach those eggs before I “properly cook” them?
    How about those lovely cardboard cartons the eggs come in…are they carrying and spreading salmonella all over my kitchen and refrigerator, so my friends and family could get sick in spite of the eggs being “properly cooked”?

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  • Cathy Richards

    The salmonella is INSIDE the hen and gets INSIDE the egg as it passes through the hen’s business bits.

    Try bleaching that (tongue in cheek).

    Clean shells and cartons are important. But unrelated to this issue.

    In Spanish followed by the English translation

  • “We fully support food safety legislation and urge the Senate to pass S.510 immediately. It will give the FDA the tools it needs to do its job and help us produce eggs under the safest possible conditions.”

    But the FDA isn’t really on the consumer’s side, is it? I really don’t trust them to do “their job.”

  • Pingback: Egg industry response to recalls (in translation) | Health News()

  • Bill Bertram

    As a boy I grew up in Iowa and worked on many of these farms……
    Farming is a dirty business, did you know that the hen that runs around free are far more dirty that the ones in the cages? those farms have to do far more to keep things clean. Imagine the dirt and crap(literally) crap that the chickens run in, I think this has far more to do with Americans slowly loosing their amunity to these outbreaks by the garbage that we call processed food. I use the word food loosely.

    I think that the people who continuely complain about the farming and processes to get our food to the table, should go to the farm, work it for a month then if they think they can improve the system and still get the eggs or meat to the table for a price that consumers are willing to pay so be it,

  • Hilarious on one side and terrfying on the other. Here’s something that shows how long a road we have to go: I live in a agricultural community and most people still buy eggs from Walmart when there are well raised local chickens every 100 feet. Keep on educating the masses…our only hope. Great stuff, I love this post.

  • When people purposely injure others, they are imprisoned (if they get caught). Those same laws should apply to food producers-suppliers that knowingly poison the public.

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