Federal officials now estimate that as many as half a billion salmonella-tainted eggs have been circulating in the US food supply over the past few months. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been sickened with salmonella linked to the contaminated eggs, prompting three recalls over the past two weeks the third was issued last Friday.
A small handful of egg farms in Iowa appear to be at the center of the outbreak. Two of these farms are operated by Hillandale Farms of Iowa, one of the largest egg companies in the US; Wright County Egg Farm operates the other five. These farms share several common suppliers, including those for chicks and feed. According to the AP, this supplier has a history of violations and controversy.
(More information about the recalls and details about how to decipher the dates and plant codes stamped on egg cartons is available here.)
The latest in a long string of food safety headlines, this egg recall reminded me, once again, that we are still waiting for Congress to pass updated food safety legislation. Earlier this month, the Senate version of a food safety bill inched forward, including several amendments aimed at easing regulatory burdens on small-scale farms and food facilities. (See an excellent overview of the new amendments here.) Now that these amendments are in place, many food safety advocates are optimistic that the bill could come to a vote in the Senate in this fall.
The food safety bills currently pending in both the House and the Senate represent the first major changes to food safety laws in more than 70 years, and clearly, gaps in the food-safety system are causing considerable health and economic impacts. Updated, comprehensive food-safety legislation is long overdue as is stepped-up accountability from the food industry, as well. Now that supply chains are elongated and interconnected, and distribution networks are extended, food manufacturers must have to fully recognize the heightened risks and carefully consider the line between profit and responsible corporate behavior.