by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Eggs

Jul 3 2019

Have backyard chickens? Wash your hands!

As readers of this blog should know by now, I’m a big fan of food safety lawyer Bill Marler, whose blog keeps me up to date on food safety matters.

He posted recently on a Salmonella outbreak caused by contact with backyard chickens.

The CDC keeps track of such things.  By its count,

A total of 279 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 41 states.

  • 40 (26%) people have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.
  • 70 (30%) people are children younger than 5 years.

The CDC’s advice:

I was interested in Marler’s account because I knew that he had backyard chickens at his place near Seattle.

Here’s what he says about that:

We have had hens in our backyard since just after the DeCoster egg debacle in 2010.  I clean the chicken house about twice a month and the shoes and clothes I wear are removed before going inside.  I wear a mask and gloves when I clean and either wash my hands well or take a shower.  I do not pick up the chickens unless they are ill, and I wash my hands after I do.  I wash the eggs and refrigerate then.  They tend to get used within the week.

I do my best to think about the possibility of cross-contamination with Salmonella and/or Campylobacter.  So far, so good.

Good advice.

 

Mar 18 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: Eggs

Here’s another in my series of post-Unsavory Truth examples of studies whose funder can be predicted by their titles.

The consumption of 12 Eggs per week for 1 year does not alter fasting serum markers of cardiovascular disease in older adults with early macular degeneration Hassan Aljohia , Mindy Dopler-Nelson , Manuel Cifuentes , Thomas A. Wilson.  Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism 2019;15:35-41.

Hypothesis: Egg consumption is associated with reduced risk of macular degeneration, but because eggs are so high in cholesterol, they might increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion: “This study suggests that the consumption of 12 eggs per week for 1 year does not significantly alter fasting serum lipids, lipoprotein cholesterol, or other biomarkers of CVD in older adults diagnosed with early macular degeneration” [the hypothesis is shown to be false].

Funding: “The authors would also like to thank the American Egg Board, Egg Nutrition Center, Washington, DC (T.A.W.) and the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund Inc., New Bedford, MA (T.A.W.) for their funding support. The funding played no role in data collection, analyses, or interpretation.”

Comment: So the authors say, but industry influence is often unrecognized.    Independently funded studies sometimes come to quite different conclusions, as one in JAMA did last week.  Its conclusion: “Among US adults, higher consumption of dietary cholesterol or eggs was significantly associated with higher risk of incident CVD and all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner.”

May 16 2018

Should organic eggs be labeled “healthy?” Their producers think so.

You have to have some sympathy for egg producers.  Egg consumption has been declining for years.

Egg producers blame the decline on cholesterol concerns; eggs are by far the largest dietary source of cholesterol.

Now Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs is petitioning the FDA to forget about cholesterol and update its definition of “healthy” so the company can advertise its eggs as “healthy.”

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a speech last month that the FDA would be updating the definition.

I, of course, think “healthy” is a slippery slope best avoided, and that Congress never should have allowed health claims on foods in the first place.,

But too late for that.

I don’t envy the FDA’s challenge here.  The petition is based on the dietary guidelines, but what the guidelines say about dietary cholesterol, and therefore eggs, is extremely confusing.

As I explained in a previous post, the guidelines no longer recommend a cap on dietary cholesterol of 300 mg/day (the equivalent of 1.5 eggs), but do say that people should eat as little cholesterol as possible.

Good luck on this one.

Apr 19 2018

200 million eggs recalled? The mind boggles.

I’m trying to get my head around 200 million eggs being recalled because of Salmonella.

The Washington Post has the story:

An investigation by the federal agency led to an inspection of the farm, [Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, Ind.] which is located in Hyde County, N.C., and produces 2.3 million eggs a day from 3 million hens. Eggs produced at the farm are distributed to retail stores and restaurants in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas.

The recalled eggs were sold under brand names such as Great Value, Country Daybreak and Crystal Farms. They were also sold to Waffle House restaurants and Food Lion stores. (Click here for a full list of brands and stores.)

 Rose Acre Farms produces 2.3 million eggs a day from 3 million hens?

Bill Marler has the technical details: 22 people ill, and 206,749,248 eggs recalled.  I like his image:

In my book “Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety,” I explain how Salmonella gets into eggs and how it got into them in the first place.  This was a preventable problem.  It still is, if egg producers paid close attention to following standard egg safety procedures.

These, of course, are more difficult if you are dealing with millions of eggs every day.

But that doesn’t help the people who became ill.

Jan 31 2018

Annals of food marketing: define “egg”?

Competition in the food service industry must be fierce these days.

My colleagues who are members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently received this letter from a public relations firm working for Panera.

Subject: Panera’s Quest to #RespectTheEgg

Did you know 50% of the top 10 fast casual restaurants that sell breakfast have an “egg” made of at least five ingredients, often more? That’s why Panera has officially petitioned the FDA to establish a clear definition for the term “egg,” in an effort to improve standards and transparency throughout the food industry.

In the meantime, customers can rest assured that when they order an egg at Panera, that’s exactly what they’re getting. Panera has launched a line of new breakfast sandwiches featuring 100% real, freshly cracked, cooked-to-order eggs with no additives at all.

In case this is a fit for anything you’re working on, here is a link to more materials and images, including:

  • Panera’s Official Press Release
  • An Infographic Comparing Competitor’s Eggs and Breakfast Sandwiches (print size and JPG for social sharing)
  • Images of Panera’s Breakfast Sandwiches
  • The FDA Petition
  • Panera’s New & Improved Breakfast Menu

You can also find detailed nutrition info on Panera’s new breakfast sandwiches here. Please let me know if you have any questions on Panera’s quest to #RespectTheEgg!

The press release does not say what evil additives are used by Panera’s competitors.  Fortunately, Forbes has a list.  Its top prize goes to Subway, but the others don’t look much better.

Here’s the ingredient list for Subway’s Egg Omelet Patty (Regular):

Whole eggs, egg whites, water, nonfat dry milk, premium egg blend (isolated pea product, salt, citric acid, dextrose, guar gum, xanthan gum, extractive of spice, propylene glycol and not more than 2% calcium silicate and glycerin to prevent caking), soybean oil, butter alternative (liquid and hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors, beta carotene (color), TBHQ and citric acid added to protect flavor, dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent added), salt, beta-carotene (color).

Hey—eggs are the first ingredient.

Panera isn’t really asking for a standard of identity for eggs.  It’s asking not to count an egg as an egg if these kinds of things are added to it.

I can’t wait to see what the FDA does with this one or if it even tries to attempt to draw the line between the items in the non-egg “premium egg blend” and additives like salt and pepper.

Aug 3 2016

McDonald’s joins the food movement???

McDonald’s ran a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times:*

“At McDonald’s we’re on a journey: What’s important to you is important to us.”

The ad says McDonald’s is taking these actions [with my comments]:

  • Removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and other items [Fine, but no big deal in my book.]
  • Removed high fructose corn syrup from hamburger buns [And replaced it with what?  Sugar?  This matters? I’m guessing the price of HFCS must be close enough to the price of sugar to make this possible.]**
  • Committed to only source chickens that have not been treated with antibiotics [OK.  Now we’re talking important.  For this alone,  McDonald’s deserves high praise.  My only question: by when?]*** 

The ad also summarizes the company’s additional actions, done and promised:

  • Burgers are 100% beef
  • Eggs are freshly cracked
  • Salads feature baby spinach, kale, Tuscan red leaf lettuce, and carrots
  • Buttermilk chicken uses real buttermilk
  • Milk is sourced from cows not treated with rbST
  • 2 billion sides of fruit were served (including 59 million clementines)
  • Espresso beans are Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • Eggs will be cage-free by 2025

Amazing, no?

It’s worth a field trip to see how all this works in practice.  I’m on it.

Additions, corrections, and updates

*Jill Cornish writes that the ad also appeared in the Washington Post.

**I get a Bingo for this one.  Martijn Katan writes: “The price of beet sugar fell below that of HCFS in April 2015. By June 2016, 1 lb of HFCS-55 cost $0.412 as opposed to $0.297 for beet sugar.”  He even sends a reference: www.cornnaturally.com/Economics-of-HFCS/price-calculator.aspx

***Andy Smith points out that “In 2015, McDonald’s announced that it would stop buying chicken raised with non-therapeutic, medically-important antibiotics by 2017– but a few weeks ago announced that it had already done so.”  He too provides a reference: See QSR. “McDonald’s Eliminates Antibiotics From Its Chicken,” QSR Magazine, August 2, 2016. Retrieved at https://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/eliminates-antibiotics-its-chicken.

Thank you readers!  Much appreciated.

Nov 4 2015

Does eating eggs raise blood cholesterol levels?

The Physicans Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group advocating against use of animals in research but for vegetarian and vegan diets, has started a campaign to restore egg-and-cholesterol recommendations to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Eggs are the largest source of cholesterol in American diets.

The campaign involves billboards like this one, in six locations in Texas:

egg-facts

It also involves a new organization (truthaboutegg.org) with an interactive website on a dozen issues related to egg production and consumption.

The one that particularly caught my eye was #5.

A 2013 review suggested that high-cholesterol foods have only a modest effect on blood cholesterol. Of the 12 studies it relied on, 11 were industry-funded.

In a letter to Congressman K. Michael Conaway (Rep-TX), Dr. Neal Barnard, PCRM’s president, wrote:

This week, billboards near your Texas offices will alert you to the dangers Americans face if cholesterol warnings are removed…Eggs are the leading source of cholesterol in the American diet.  A report (which I’ve included for your review) in the autumn 2015 Good Medicine magazine finds that this recommendation may have been influenced by egg-industry-funded cholesterol research. America’s heart disease and diabetes epidemics will continue unabated if the egg industry succeeds in its efforts to get cholesterol warnings out of the guidelines.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) said this about dietary cholesterol.

Cholesterol. Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 DGAC will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol, consistent with the conclusions of the AHA/ACC report.2,35 Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.

The DGAC based its unconcern about dietary cholesterol on two references:

2.  Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, de Jesus JM, Houston Miller N, Hubbard VS, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S76-99. PMID: 24222015. Its conclusion:

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether lowering dietary cholesterol reduces LDL–C.

35.  Shin JY, Xun P, Nakamura Y, He K. Egg consumption in relation to risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98(1):146-59. PMID: 23676423. This study, which was also independently funded, concluded:

compared with those who never consume eggs, those who eat 1 egg per day or more are 42% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Among diabetic patients, frequent egg consumers (ie, > 1 egg/d) are 69% more likely to have CVD comorbidity…This meta-analysis suggests that egg consumption is not associated with the risk of CVD and cardiac mortality in the general population. However, egg consumption may be associated with an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes among the general population and CVD comorbidity among diabetic patients.

Were these references based largely on studies funded by the egg industry?  If so, PCRM is correct in arguing that the question of egg consumption and blood cholesterol levels merits much closer scrutiny and analysis than it is currently receiving.

What does a study funded by the egg industry look like?  Here are two one from my recent collection:

The effect of a high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) study—a 3-mo randomized controlled trial, by Nicholas R Fuller, Ian D Caterson, Amanda Sainsbury, Gareth Denyer, Mackenzie Fong, James Gerofi, Katherine Baqleh, Kathryn H Williams, Namson S Lau, and Tania P Markovic.  Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 101:705-713.

  • Conclusion: High egg consumption did not have an adverse effect on the lipid profile of people with T2D [type 2 diabetes] in the context of increased MUFA [monounsaturated fatty acid] and PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acid] consumption. This study suggests that a high-egg diet can be included safely as part of the dietary management of T2D, and it may provide greater satiety.
  • Sponsor: Australian Egg Corporation

Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Berger, S., Raman, G., Vishwanathan, R., Jacques, P.F., Johnson, E.J., 2015. Am J Clin Nutr ajcn100305. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.100305.  Am J Clin Nutr August 2015
vol. 102 no. 2 276-294

  • Conclusion: Reviewed studies were heterogeneous and lacked the methodologic rigor to draw any conclusions regarding the effects of dietary cholesterol on CVD risk.  [Implication: suggestions that eggs might raise cardiovascular risk are unwarranted]
  • Sponsor: Supported by USDA agreement 1950-51000-073 and the American Egg Board, Egg Nutrition Center.  The funders did not have a role in the study selection, quality assessment, data synthesis, or manuscript preparation.
Jun 29 2015

Bird flu poses big-time challenges for egg producers

This is a roundup of recent items on the effects of bird flu on egg producers: (1) the toll of the epidemic, (2) the politics, (3) the effects on restaurants, (4) the potential for a vaccine, and (5) a Food-Navigator-USA special edition.

1.  The toll: According to the USDA’s Chicken and Eggs report, the number of chickens laying table eggs declined by 33.5 million since April 1, a loss of 11%, and the number of eggs is down by 5%.  In May alone, 31.4 million layers were “rendered, died, destroyed, composted or disappeared,” four times the usual mortality rate.  No surprise, but egg prices went up by 46 cents in the last couple of weeks and now average $2.05 a dozen for Large white eggs Grade A or better (see USDA’s National Retail Report).  Since December, USDA says there have been 223 outbreaks of bird flu that have affected 48.1 million chickens and turkeys.

2.  The politics: According to an article in Fortune magazine, the flu epidemic is a consequence of industrial egg production, in which many thousands of birds are packed together.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the crisis is its implications for the viability of industrial-scale farming. The egg industry’s huge “layer operations”…are designed to protect birds from contamination, says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota at the University of Minnesota. The animals’ environment is tightly controlled…But when a virus pierces such defenses, or when defenses lapse, having all of one’s eggs in one basket (so to speak) can make the impact more devastating.

3.  Restaurants: The Des Moines Register reports that restaurants will be raising prices as a result of the egg shortage.

4.  Bird Flu Vaccine: According to PoliticoPro Morning Agriculture, a small company in Iowa says it’s got a vaccine that needs USDA approval before it can be used.  But people in the poultry industry think it might be “a non-starter for foreign buyers of U.S. poultry products.”

5.  Food Navigator-USA’s Special Edition is called Avian flu in focus: Navigating the egg shortage crisis.  As Food Navigator explains, “manufacturers that rely on egg products face some big challenges in the weeks and months ahead.”