New Egg Safety Rule Deserves Support From Consumers and Industry

Sep 20, 2004, 01:00 ET from Food Animal Concerns Trust

    CHICAGO, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the FDA announced its proposed
 plan to reduce the risk of Salmonella illnesses from eggs by implementing
 required on-farm Salmonella controls.  Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)
 welcomes the FDA plan as long overdue.  Over four years ago FACT's Richard
 Wood negotiated the plan's basic provisions on behalf of consumer groups in
 meetings with the egg industry and the FDA.  "Today's proposal is consistent
 with the agreement of four years ago and when fully implemented should reduce
 the number of Salmonella illnesses in the US," stated Richard Wood, FACT's
 Executive Director.
     A central component of the plan is on-farm testing for Salmonella
 Enteritidis (SE), the foodborne bacteria most often found in raw shell eggs.
 The plan requires egg farms to conduct an environmental test of each flock,
 followed by a series of egg tests if SE is found.  If there are continued
 positive results, the eggs could not be sold to consumers as raw shell eggs.
 "This is a critical component of the agreement that is key to reducing the
 number of Salmonella related illnesses," Wood stated.  Environmental testing
 on egg farms is necessary because the SE bacteria can pass from infected
 chickens into the egg before the shell is formed.
     The proposal includes a new provision that exempts smaller egg farms with
 less than 3,000 hens.  FACT accepts this exemption since SE is primarily found
 on large egg farms.  However, FACT believes that continued surveillance and
 tracebacks of SE outbreaks is necessary to determine if small farms should
 also be included in the plan.
     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance has not seen a
 decline in SE rates nationwide since 1996.  Because SE causes tens of
 thousands of illnesses annually, the FDA has finally decided to propose on-
 farm SE interventions.  Egg producing farms have been the missing link in
 reducing the threat of Salmonella poisoning.  Existing voluntary on-farm
 control programs have been shown to decrease the number of illnesses, but only
 little more than half participate.  This FDA rule would require the majority
 of egg producers to take these important steps to protect public health.
     Since 1982, Food Animals Concerns Trust has been a strong advocate of
 better farming practices to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses.  FACT
 works to improve the safety of the nation's meat, milk and eggs supply and
 promotes the humane husbandry of food animals.  FACT just completed an egg
 production and marketing project, working with 14 Pennsylvania farms.  The
 project included a model SE control program on the farms that included
 environmental testing and market diversion when there were positives.

SOURCE Food Animal Concerns Trust