I’m sure that’s not an original title. Bad puns abound. We’re in a situation where the FDA’s longstanding voluntary compliance approach to industrial food production safety has gone incredibly, visibly awry. Mostly because it sorely lacks the funds and the boots-on-the-ground manpower to enforce the regs in person. Also mostly because for a full 10 years, the few attempts made by the FDA to put some teeth into the safety regs for the egg industry were quashed from above. Those years, which ended this summer, were mostly Bush years. It’s probably not a coincidence.
380 million eggs recalled and counting in the past week. That’s a lot of eggs–it’s a lot of chickens too. Possibly some that you yourself bought, if you live anywhere west of the Mississippi River. From companies in Iowa that had a long record of not following standard egg-handling safety practices to prevent the spread of salmonella. They preferred to pay the occasional penalty or fine instead.
If you’re not thrilled with the way this was handled or the fact that it could have been prevented pretty easily, what can you do?
Check the FDA voluntary recall list for the commercial names and serial numbers. If your eggs are on the list, return them to the store. If not, cook your eggs fully anyway. Just because yours weren’t on this week’s list doesn’t mean they’re definitely clean.
Then call or email (or if you want to be especially annoying, fax a copy of the Dr. Seuss bookcover–you know which one) your local Congressional representative or senator to
express your disgust demand more enforcement authority and more money for the FDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service.
But that’s not enough. In the past 10 years, the FDA has grown used to doing less. It’s just been a month since Congress passed legislation giving it new rights–but will the FDA use them without a strong push? Ask your congressional representatives to mandate an FDA report on how it’s strengthening its food safety oversight and enforcement under the new laws. A yearly report to Congress might be as much as the agency can handle at the moment, but a twice-yearly report would push them to apply their new oversight powers a little sooner and more vigorously.
Aug. 25–And demand hen vaccination against salmonella as a national requirement for operating any kind of poultry business.