The FDA has issued a new ruling that says egg producers must “test regularly for salmonella and buy chicks from suppliers who do the same,” and that eggs “will have to be refrigerated on the farm and during shipment” as well as by wholesalers and in the store. The rule is meant to cut down on the number of egg-related salmonella cases nationwide, which currently are around 142,000 a year. [Washington Post] (Photo: Andreas Kollegger)

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  1. Joewithay says:

    I remember when I was in Colombia, they just had their eggs at room temperature in their supermarket. I wonder their salmonella numbers…

    • ARP says:

      @Joewithay: High? But I wonder if its any higher than our stats.

      I wonder if Columbia engages in the factory-farm type setting we use. That seems to be the primary danger to our food supply. When you pack thousands of chicken on top of each other, any illness can rapidly spread. I assume the same danger applies to the eggs. Can someone enlighten?

      • Pinget says:

        @ARP: Thanks to factory farming, salmonella now inhabits chickens’ ovaries, so it can be inside an uncracked egg. 30 years ago, say, that was not so, and clean, uncracked eggs could be assumed safe. That is no longer so. [www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov]

        It’s possible that factory farms are not in use in Colombia, so the eggs are actually safer if salmonella has not migrated to their chickens’ ovaries.

        • ARP says:

          @Pinget: That’s what I assumed. So, free range chicken eggs (everything else being equal), have lower risk because it’s less likely that the infection will spread through out the farm given that they aren’t constantly on top of each other?

          @JohnDeere: It might also be that over the past 8 years, the FDA has had their budget cut and their enforcement powers weakened. When that happened we saw a spike in recalls and similar contamination problems. So, I would say that the FDA is actually doing their job after a long stretch of not being able to. So it’s more government regulation in the sense that Bush had zero regulation (from a practicial perspective) and now we have it again.

          • Pinget says:

            @ARP: Free range anything is bound to be safer. You pack too many people close together and see what happens, meningitis for example. Notice the organic/natural/free range egg guys aren’t willing to take the liability, though, and put on their packages real big “Salmonella Free!” What a selling point that would be though.

        • Rectilinear Propagation says:

          @Pinget: That makes my ovaries hurt…

    • Ubik2501 says:

      @Joewithay: Eggs are actually fine at room temperature, and in many (possibly most) places people will leave their eggs out on the counter or elsewhere at room temperature. Refrigeration just makes them last longer – for a few weeks instead of a few days. Refrigeration won’t kill or inhibit salmonella if it’s already in there.

      • zombies.like.lattés.too says:

        @Ubik2501: “Refrigeration won’t kill or inhibit salmonella if it’s already in there.”

        …then what’s the purpose of this legislation?

        • JohnDeere says:

          @zombies.like.lattés.too: some people needed something to do one day at work, and stuck their noses into things that they know nothing about.

          ohh its about big coorporations shutting out the little guy too.

          • superberg says:

            @JohnDeere:

            Down with government regulation! Why should we have to wash counter-tops or keep lead out of our food? Buyer beware, let the consumers vote with their wallets on how clean food should be!

            If no standard is set, no standard is followed.

        • ChuckECheese says:

          @zombies.like.lattés.too: Refrigeration inhibits pathogen growth. We don’t refrigerate just because we like cold beer.

          Fresh eggs can be stored at room temp for about a week. But you should cook them thoroughly.

          I suspect part of the salmonella problem is this: The expiry date on a carton of eggs can be up to several weeks after laying. During that time, any number of things can happen to those eggs, increasing salmonella numbers.

          More info here: [fooddemocracy.wordpress.com]

        • I Love New Jersey says:

          @zombies.like.lattés.too: To say that they solved the problem.

      • floraposte says:

        @Ubik2501: I’ve heard explanations based on prep differences, too–that U.S. eggs are washed in a way that strips them of a preservative coating, for instance. (I also believe that salmonella do multiply more slowly at fridge temperatures, so it does in fact have an inhibiting effect–and that may make the difference between something an immune system can handle and something it can’t.)

        • Ubik2501 says:

          @floraposte: You’re right, my mistake – refrigeration does have an inhibiting effect on microbe reproduction. It’s the afternoon already and I still need more coffee!

  2. amberlink says:

    You know, if you go overseas, you see that eggs are kept ON TOP of refrigerators because they don’t irradiate them. Why don’t we do the same thing? How come in our “developed” country we have so many egg outbreaks yet in places like Central America they keep their eggs au natural on top of the fridge.

  3. Metricula says:

    Free-range eggs around here are only about a dollar and some change more than at the supermarket. I wonder if it’s really any better.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      @Metricula:

      Here outside boston store brand eggs are $2 a dozen – free range is about $3 to $4.

    • alexawesome says:

      @Metricula: The point of free range eggs isn’t so much for better eggs, but for the better health and well being of the chickens. To my knowledge, the eggs aren’t processed much differently after they’ve been collected.

      You have to be really careful with stuff labeled free range and do your homework on the farms and companies selling them. I don’t know if it’s still true, but in recent years, you could say something was free range even if it wasn’t.

      • Stephmo says:

        @alexawesome: Can’t free range just mean that the door on their cage is open? I mean, it doesn’t mean that they have this pretty little yard to walk around in where a sweet Southern-drawled well-meaning rooster comes around and regales them with his funny ways.

        And aren’t the chickens sort of bred to not walk?

        Or maybe I’ve read too much chicken propaganda…

    • paco says:

      @Metricula: “Free range” means next to nothing. “Cage free” is more specific. Best are eggs from chickens that are pastured.

      Read Omnivore’s Dilemma if you want to know more.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      @Metricula: I pay about $3.50 for 18 cage-free, grain-fed eggs from a local family farm. If regulations take those eggs away from me, I will be deeply disappointed.

  4. SexCpotatoes says:

    When we were kids, eventually, we weren’t allowed to eat cake/brownie batter anymore because of the salmonella risk.

    I read somewhere that salmonella rates in eggs are so low, that a person only encounters a tainted egg maybe once in 80 years of average egg consumption. Then, usually it’s a cooked egg and the cooking kills it.

    I say the risk is worth it. Let the kids lick the damned spoon, and use their fingers to scrape out every gooey bit of the delicious brownie/cake batter or cookie dough.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      @SexCpotatoes:

      Do you not wear your seatbelt either since the chances of you getting into an accident ejecting you are low?

      • MostlyHarmless says:

        @wrjohnston91283: The thing with seatbelts isnt just ejecting, but hitting reeeealy hard against the dashboard/steering wheel/getting bashed around.

        • SexCpotatoes says:

          @MostlyHarmless: Plus, unrestrained passengers kill restrained passengers when they slingshot around the cabin like a human-pin-ball-o-death, if they aren’t ejected in the first place.

          • MostlyHarmless says:

            @SexCpotatoes: Thats an awesome image… jerks slinhshotting around the cabin, crushing hot chicks.

            And why the hate on the airbags? Did you happen to deploy one when getting all hot and heavy with someone on the hood?

            • Rectilinear Propagation says:

              @MostlyHarmless: Are you talking about this PSA?

            • SexCpotatoes says:

              @MostlyHarmless: I’ve had multiple family members get in accidents before, and the airbag(s) had no effect, other than to give them freaky burns all up their arms and on their neck, and bruising them, etc.

              Had an airbag light flashing on one of my past cars, throwing a code. One airbag sensor of the six in the front went bad, replacement part cost: $380, not even counting the labor to find which one it was. That did NOT get fixed.

              Kids can’t ride up front unless you disable the airbag in a newish car.

              I also drive big enough cars that there’s a lot of crash absorption before I’ll be affected badly in an accident. Sure, you need 12,000 airbags in a “Smart” car, because there’s nothing between you and that other driver’s bumper but a thin layer of glass, plastic, and tin. And don’t get me started on how they can get ONLY 32 mpg out of a gallon of PREMIUM fuel that contains more energy than regular gas in the “Smart” car.

              • Landru says:

                @SexCpotatoes: I’ve read that the automakers now take the airbags and other safety features into consideration when planning a car’s structural integrity.

      • SexCpotatoes says:

        @wrjohnston91283: Of course I wear my seatbelt. My mother wouldn’t move the car unless we were all buckled. Of course these days, I prefer cars without airbags, though. Purely personal reasons.

    • HiPwr says:

      @SexCpotatoes: 142,000 seems like an extraordinary figure. I wonder what it was 30 years ago.

    • kbarrett says:

      @SexCpotatoes: So … you want to feed your kids something that came out of a bird’s arse ( cloaca ) without cooking it first?

      • SexCpotatoes says:

        @kbarrett: Well, I haven’t had any kids yet, but yes, they’ll be raised pretty much “free range” if/when I do happen to have them.

        @Landru: Yes, I can totally see that. Beancounter1: “We can totally cheap out on the steel in the frames of these trucks, because our airbags will protect the occupants just well enough to pass under the ‘lawsuit threshold’”

    • mythago says:

      @SexCpotatoes: I make brownies and cookies with EggBeaters and similar pasteurized egg products, so my kids can lick the bowl.

      But if you like the idea of sitting up with your children at three in the morning while they are vomiting and shitting blood, hey, you go right ahead and feed them raw eggs, Mr. Cloudy Nostalgia.

      • SexCpotatoes says:

        @mythago: Ah, but in over 28 years (give or take) of egg eating ‘nostalgia,’ I don’t ever seem to remember puking and shitting blood, nor can I remember ANYONE in my large immediate and extended family (mom had 7 brothers and sisters) EVER getting salmonella poisoning. Nor any of my friends or teachers in school. I’m not saying it never happens, but lets not be psychotic worry-warts when it comes to kids (and their safety).

        • mythago says:

          @SexCpotatoes: Do we really need the little Internet 101 thing about the difference between ‘anecdote’ and ‘data’ again? Or can I bust out my great-uncle, who smoked three packs a day all his life and lived into his 90s, as proof that Big Tobacco is right about the safety of cigarettes?

          Bottom line is that there is a safer alternative – pasteurized eggs – that allows kids to eat raw cookie dough or lick the brownie bowl and not risk getting salmonella. If you want to play Infected Egg Roulette with your own children, knock yourself out.

  5. BertMask says:

    These egg producers have the right idea. I wish I had tested the last chick I bought for salmonella.

  6. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I loves me my eggs over easy… but I can’t find in-shell pasturized eggs around me. I found Davidson’s Pasturized Eggs online and put in a request to get some distribution action out here but all I got back was a few coupons for their eggs (useful!) and a letter saying to ask the grocery manager (not so useful: he already told me no one is asking for them).

    • HomersBrain says:

      @Applekid: Try looking at a smaller grocery store or talk to a different manager at that same store. I’ve worked at grocery stores and seen many instances where a store added an item for a customer. Be specific and guarantee you’ll buy a certain amount per week/month. The advantage for the store is they basically get to test-market a new item for free (since you’re paying for it)

  7. Con Seannery says:

    More government regulation…I wonder how much of that statistic there is made up of extremely mild and/or non-egg related cases.

    • floraposte says:

      @Con Seannery: That’s all egg-related cases, according to the article, which differentiates it from the million annual U.S. salmonella cases. In general, mild cases don’t get reported, so the number’s probably low.

      Here’s more stats from the CDC: [www.cdc.gov]

      • Con Seannery says:

        @floraposte: Alright, thanks for clearing that on up! A million cases is still less than a third of a percent of the US population…

        • MostlyHarmless says:

          @Con Seannery: So its okay to off a million people just because theres 300 million of them?

          • floraposte says:

            @MostlyHarmless: That’s a million cases, not a million deaths. I think we’d have heard of 1/3 of the U.S. keeled over last year.

            • floraposte says:

              @floraposte: Argh. Mixed my math, but I still think we’d have heard.

              • MostlyHarmless says:

                @floraposte: Yeah, I wished for an edit button as soon as I said “submit”. I meant, it would still be a big concern if a million people got pretty ill. I couldnt care less if a million people had a moving experience for a week.

                Don’t a million people keel over every year anyways? (variety of reasons). Just that theres more than that born over the year…

                • mythago says:

                  @MostlyHarmless: You’d likely care if you were one of that million. There are plenty of developing nations you could move to where you don’t have that pesky government regulation messing with your food supply, you know. People I know who have lived in them have had everything from food poisoning to amoebic dysentery, but hey! Isn’t that a small price to pay for keeping the Nanny State out of your corn flakes?

                  • MostlyHarmless says:

                    @mythago: Cut that condescending tone out. I’m from one such nation of a billion people.

                    (Also, why are you railing at me? I’m agreeing with you.)

    • cerbie says:

      @Con Seannery: just enough so that the regulations help out factory farming companies more than they solve the problem. Any more than that is wasteful.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The term “Free Range” is meaningless. This means that chickens can still be crammed into tight cages, the doors opened for a few minutes a day, and still called Free Range because, technically, they had access. Look for Cage Free eggs – which is a classification that is actually regulated. (You will also notice that Cage Free eggs are usually more expensive than Free Range, perhaps because the free range eggs are often just factory farmed eggs labeled differently. Unless you buy eggs at the farmers market, and actually talk to the people who raise the chickens, don’t trust the term “Free Range.”

  9. hi says:

    Everything will be fine now that Michael Taylor is back at the FDA.

  10. PrudenceGoolay says:

    Salmonella is a natural pathogen that resides in the bowels of poultry animals, similar to the way E Coli resides in the digestive tract of a cow. If a chicken shits on an egg, it is going to have salmonella on it. When you crack it, some of the egg will become contaminated, and if you dont cook it enough, it could make you sick. This is just a fact of life.

  11. Ayanami says:

    And the costs of this regulation are going to get passed on to us, wonderful!

  12. winstonthorne says:

    The salmonella is primarily outside the egg, because it comes from feces and chickens aren’t exactly the Charmin bears of the barnyard in terms of pooping protocol. Testing a chick for salmonella seems completely useless.

  13. rockasocky says:

    I only deal with chicks who have been tested too.

    Oh, wait, that’s something different.

  14. paco says:

    How will this affect small, local egg producers? I’d hate to think I couldn’t buy eggs at the farmers market any more.

    • kerry says:

      @paco: I’m wondering the same thing. Right now I’m buying my eggs from the IT guy at work, who lives on a farm and raises chickens. Best damned eggs I’ve ever bought. I’d hate to give them up (or for him to go underground).

    • mythago says:

      @paco: Well, you could probably spend five seconds Googling “fda eggs regulation” and find out.

      The regulations do not apply to businesses with under 3,000 laying hens.

      [www.fda.gov]

  15. Righteous says:

    What will this do to the price of eggs? I recall a dozen eggs only being around $0.79 a dozen only four or five years ago. Now they are around $1.29. It’s clear to me that the FDA is meddling to suppress a cheap source of protein. Bastards!

  16. Righteous says:

    Additionally, how many of those 142,000 cases are due to raw or undercooked eggs? Even if these 142,000 cases were to represent 142,000 people as opposed to 142,000 instances where some may have occurred to the same individual more than once, 142,000 out of 300+ million people in the U.S. is a drop in the bucket. It’s just nonsensical meddling by the FDA. Maybe they should turn their attention to more pressing matters, like banning aspartame or cracking down on the aggressive marketing of “harmaceuticals” by the drug companies. This agency, like most every government entity, doesn’t represent the people, it represents big business.

    • Righteous says:

      @Righteous: From the FDA website…”Salmonella Enteritidis can be found inside eggs that appear perfectly normal. If the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness. Eggs in the shell become contaminated on the farm, primarily because of infection in the laying hens.”

      Basically, this truly is more government meddling in our lives. Call it Big Brother, call it a Nanny State, or call it an abomination (or maybe that should be Obamination), but many are going to have to pay for the incompetent few that can’t fully cook their eggs or choose to consume their eggs raw. I’m furious.

      Also, how does this intersect with USDA regulations regarding eggs? Does the USDA now report to the FDA?

      • cerbie says:

        @Righteous: “Eggs in the shell become contaminated on the farm, primarily because of infection in the laying hens.”

        …and they aren’t telling anyone to keep the chickens halfway healthy…why, exactly? IMO, this is the kind of government regulation we don’t need, as it supports bad practices.

  17. JulesNoctambule says:

    But will I still be able to get eggs from the local farm a few towns over? That’s all I care about, because those things are good.

  18. HarcourtArmstrong says:

    Now they have to test for the salmonella. If the test comes back positive, does the new law say they have to destroy the eggs?

    • kerry says:

      @HarcourtArmstrong: I’m guessing they not only have to destroy them, but do it in a manner that limits the spread of salmonella. Incineration or something. Also, they might have to quarantine or kill the contaminated chicken. The overhead of all that could be staggering.

  19. erhudock says:

    This is eggsactly what has been needed since whichever came first, the chicken or the egg…so sqawks the FDA…

  20. mythago says:

    Hey, for everyone wondering what the law says? The FDA has a website and stuff.

    [www.fda.gov]

  21. mrearly2 says:

    More rules, more regulations, higher costs. (Everyone feeling free?) All that for an almost-nonexistent problem. All that has to be done is for the egg producers to run a clean operation.

    Why, I used to eat raw cookie dough and eat raw eggs, and they didn’t hurt me.

    • veg-o-matic says:

      @mrearly2:

      All that has to be done is for the egg producers to run a clean operation.

      I’ll let you think about that for a moment. Or two.