Why did egg recall take so long?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In May, the Centers for Disease Control identified a nationwide increase in the number of salmonella cases documented in the United States. Around three months later, Wright County Egg voluntarily conducted a nationwide recall of shell eggs from three of its five farms. The recall was expanded to all Wright County Egg farms on Aug. 18. Two days later, a second Iowa farm, Hillandale Farms, also issued a voluntary recall of shell eggs.

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested documents and information related to the recent salmonella outbreak and egg recalls from both farms. Legislators are questioning when government officials and customers of affected egg products were first notified of the contamination. The committee is also requesting inspection records, internal protocol policies and documents related to allegations of health, safety, environmental or animal cruelty violations. Responses are expected by Sept. 7.

Although both companies are currently working with the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help ensure no more Americans are impacted by salmonella, nearly 2,000 people contracted the illness. It is my hope that Congress will ask the following questions: "Why did it take so long to issue recalls?" and "Did thousands of people fall ill unnecessarily due to food safety violations?"

With the egg recall joining a growing list of contaminated food recalls that have been conducted over the last few years, it is my hope that Congress will develop new policies to help FDA officials respond to outbreaks more efficiently. For now, we must look to our local health department to ensure contaminated products do not make it to our dinner tables. The Barry County Health Department began working on the egg recall last week. The local health department is responsible for contacting local grocers to determine which facilities are selling the recalled products. Environmental public health specialists will also conduct spot checks to ensure contaminated products are removed from store shelves and all local grocery providers have been notified about the recall. Monitoring will continue until the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issues notification that the recall has expired.

Area residents should also check the egg cartons in their refrigerators for recalled products. Dates and codes stamped on the packaging can be used to identify contaminated eggs. Over two dozen brands are included in the recall. For more information on identifying contaminated eggs, visit the FDA website at www.fda.gov.

According to the FDA mission statement, the agency continues to be committed to ensuring that America's food supply is among the safest in the world. The FDA admits it is challenged by the increased consumption of produce and ready-to-eat products. The mission statement professes that the agency is continually sharpening its focus to reduce the risk of food borne illness. It is my hope that FDA officials will utilize the information collected through the Congressional investigation to further update polices and procedures regarding contaminated food products. Although it is impossible to stop all food recalls, in the future, information regarding contaminated products must be distributed to the public in a more efficient and timely manner.

Lindsay Reed