What we can learn from the egg recall
The salmonella outbreak in eggs across the United States was essentially a regulatory failure, and congress can clean the industry up.
This story was originally reported by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
Some 450 million eggs are now being recalled in a salmonella scare throughout much of the United States. Wright County Egg, the company in the middle of the egg recall, has "a long history of all kinds of problems," acclaimed nutritionist Marion Nestle told PRI's The Takeaway, "with labor, with accounting practices, with everything you could possibly think of."
"It sounds like a company that cuts corners, and the one of the easiest corner you can cut is food safety," said Nestle. Unfortunately for consumers, it's also one of the most dangerous. The company has been linked to more than 1,000 cases of salmonella, and the Center for Disease Control told the Associated Press that number is likely to grow.
Wright County Egg is only part of the problem, according to Nestle. In fact, the outbreak, and others like it, are an effect of the industrial food system built in the United States. Nestle points out:
Prior to the 1960s there never was salmonella in eggs. And as our industrial egg production system started, and we began housing literally millions of hens in the same space -- a big space, but nevertheless the same space -- if one of them gets sick, they all get sick.
The FDA has new rules that should have stopped this salmonella outbreak, but "this company was voluntarily not following the rules," according to Nestle. She told Here and now, "The FDA has been trying for years and years and years to get egg rules in place, but they've been strongly resisted by the industry." Many states have passed effective rules to prevent salmonella outbreaks, but the federal government has failed to keep up.
In fact, the FDA never inspected the Wright County Egg production plant "because there were no rules that covered it," Nestle points out. "The FDA didn't have the authority to go in do that."
One good step, according to Nestle, would be to pass the Food Safety Bill that has passed the House and is currently languishing in the Senate. Among other rules it allows the FDA to order recalls. Nestle says, "Right now, the FDA has to go to the producers of unsafe foods and say, please, pretty please, would you please recall your products. They don't have to."
Unfortunately, according to Nestle, the industry and its lobbyists are hard at work to stop new regulations. They want voluntary rules. But according to Nestle, "Each of these outbreaks is an example of what happens with voluntary."
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH. More at thetakeaway.org