The massive <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">egg recall that sickened more than 1,900 people since this May, and which was the largest such recall in United States history, is shedding light on some gaps in how food in the U.S. is regulated.
Most of the blame was placed on two Iowa farms; however, a Congressional investigation, a federal criminal inquiry, and a number of lawsuits were prompted as a result of the debacle, noted Boston.com.
The federal government, which has been spared a probe on the issue, did indicateâ€”20 years agoâ€”that Salmonella in eggs presents a public health threat, said Boston.com. It took until this July, some time after the massive recall initiated, for the government to issue its first rule on safe egg production, said Boston.com, noting that although the rule is in effect, monitoring remains an issue.
It seems that the egg industryâ€”a $4.4 billion businessâ€”had been hoping for rules for some time, as have consumer groups and public health experts; economists also said the ruleâ€™s benefits would more that outweigh its costs, explained Boston.com. It was the government, said Boston.com, that delayed imposing the rule, citing an issue the government has with regulating business.
There have also been issues with egg production safety because eggs are the responsibility of both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Also, over 15 federal agencies and 71 interagency agreements are involved in food safety oversight, noted Boston.com. Public health and government accountability analysts say that it is this sort of so-called fragmentation that deteriorates monitoring and creates issues with over-taxation due to redundancies in monitoring, said Boston.com. The fragmentation leads to gaps in oversight as well.
Boston.com also blames the fragmentation on the governmentâ€™s not regulating eggs the past 20 years, stalling the rules in both the George H.W. Bush and Clinton. Although rules have been put into place, the implementation of those rules took place too late to avoid this yearâ€™s historic outbreak, Boston.com pointed out.
This yearâ€™s mandates call for farmers to purchase certified Salmonella-free chickens and to test chickens when eggs are being laid, said Boston.com. Should a test result turn up positive for Salmonella, whole egg sales must be stopped.
Meanwhile, when FDA inspectors first looked at Wright County Egg, they cited henhouses rife manure, mice, and other disease-spreading hazards, according to Boston.com. Boston.com reported that, earlier this month, the FDA allowed Wright County Egg to begin selling eggs produced in two of its 73 henhouses again, saying the egg producer was cleared of contamination.
Consumption of products containing Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella poisoning often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with the Salmonella pathogen can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.