by Marion Nestle
Aug 23 2010

The egg recall saga continues

The massive egg recalls so dominate the news today that it’s hard to talk about anything else.

For one thing, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg took to the tube and appeared on three morning shows:

“We need greater abilities to trace back products to their source,” Hamburg told NBC’s “Today” show this morning. “We need better abilities and authorities to put in place these preventive controls and hold companies accountable.”

She pointed out that it is now one year after the peanut butter recall prompted calls for increased regulation, but the FDA still has limited authority to order recalls, among other things.

What she did not say, is that the Senate continues to tie the FDA’s hands by not passing S. 510.  Fortunately, other commentators (besides me) are making that point loud and clear:

With elections looming, Washington insiders saw little chance that the Senate would complete the bill this fall – until now. The recall of about a half-billion eggs in a salmonella scare may have given new life to the legislation….At the moment—even with salmonella eggs–the FDA can’t force a company to take its products off the market. (If an egg producer violates safety standards, the FDA does have authority to divert shell eggs to a pasteurization process, which egg producers would rather avoid).

In the meantime, the industry-sponsored  Egg Safety Center says:

Consumers are reminded that properly storing, handling and cooking eggs should help prevent food-borne illness. The Egg Safety Center and the Food and Drug Administration recommend that eggs should be fully cooked until both the yolks and the whites are firm, and consumers should not eat foods that may contain raw or undercooked eggs.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this group also said: “Producers are reminded that properly taking care of hens and diligently following food safety plans should help prevent food-borne illness. The Egg Safety Center urges egg producers to immediately implement the FDA’s new regulations for preventing Salmonella that went into effect on July 9.”

And here is USA Today’s take on it (I’m quoted).

  • Know what you’re buying. Good post about reading egg carton labeling.
    Cracking the Code

  • Tom

    I buy my eggs at my local farmers market from a woman who raises her chickens outside where the chickens eat food they naturally eat ie., insects and the like,; I have no fear of salmanella. In an unpublished paper by UC Berkeley, researchers found the only difference between two goups of men 80+ separated by whether they were healthy or convalescing, was if they ate eggs.

  • We need to clean up the factory-farming practices that these egg people use. These chickens live in filthy conditions that make salmonella inevitable.

    What’s peculiar about this recall is that a recent study conducted by Consumers Union found that two-thirds of grocery store chickens are contaminated with the same bacteria, yet no alarm is sounded!!! Those chickens are just sold as if they were clean.

  • this issue is all about controlling the masses and total food sterilization. i wish the sheeple could see through the nonsense

  • Once again, the FDA is in full damage control mode.

    The FDA is trying to change the focus away from its and the USDA’s, failure to do their job to traceback and lack of mandatory recalls when neither of these have anything to do with the egg recall.

    Shame on NBC, the Wall Street Journal and all other media who are allowing the FDA to do so.

    The FDA’s Shell Egg Rule was in effect while over 100,000,000 of the recalled eggs were produced. Either it didn’t work or it wasn’t being enforced.

    The implementation of the Shell Egg Rule was delayed from 2004 until 2010 by the Bush Administration and/or the FDA. The FDA withdrew its proposal in 2009 after it languished for 5 years.

    Lack of authority was NOT the problem. Lack of will and integrity in Washington were.

    Dr. Nestle, you are is assisting the FDA in avoiding accountability via this blog.

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  • It’d be nice if Congress could pass a law which extends the FDA’s responsibility.. maybe it could include something about more inspections for high-risk facilities like that egg guy’s place.. then they’d have to do it.. hmm..

  • @Michael Bulger. As well demonstrated during the Bush Administration, Michael, the FDA would NOT “have to do it” because Congress passed a law. The FDA wouldn’t “have to do it” until the Supreme Court told them they had to and Congress backed it up.

    Right now, courts are attempting to force the USDA to do what the law clearly calls for on GMO alfalfa and GMO beets. The Cornucopia Institute has a suit trying to force compliance with the NOP. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has a lawsuit about the FDA’s restriction on the interstate sale of raw milk. Ironically, in that instance, the FDA claims that it had no choice but to prohibit the interstate sale of milk due to a court order.

    Apparently, Michael, you missed Judith McGeary’s clear statement about this in her response to you at 8:40 PM on 8-23-10 under Marion Nestle’s blog “Effects of S 510 on small farms: Senate staff analysis.” In it, Judith wrote the following:

    “Even where the bill doesn’t explicitly leave an issue to FDA’s discretion, such as in the directions to provide “flexibility” or make regulations “practicable” or provide “consideration,” the actual real-world effect is to leave the issue to FDA’s discretion. These are undefined terms and, under the long-standing court doctrine of deference to agency rulemaking, it would be all but impossible to overturn whatever regulations FDA decides to adopt. That conclusion is based on my experience as an administrative lawyer, dealing with cases on agency authority and rulemaking. For those who wish to learn more about the issue of deference in agency rulemaking cases, the seminal cases are Chevron v NRDC:”

    Simply put, as shown in the first 3 instances I cited above, the “deference in rulemaking cases,” means that a careful, knowledgeable administrator can subvert the will of Congress for a very long time. And, depending upon who constitutes the Supreme Court at the time, it can much longer. That is how OUR rule of law works.

  • Marion

    @Michael Bulger and Harry Hamil: your conversation no longer seems productive. Thanks for your contributions but It’s time to stop.

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