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Congress Widens Egg Recall Investigation

Lawmakers are widening the scope of their investigation into the nationwide recall of over 500 million eggs.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday asked both the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture for all inspection and testing records, since 2007, related to Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, which are both at the center of the recall linked to at least 1,300 cases of Salmonella.

The committee is also asking for copies of agreements, or memoranda of understanding between USDA and from Iowa state agencies that may be responsible for conducting inspections, including the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Agriculture told Food Safety News this week that the state relies on FDA and USDA for egg facility inspections.

Monday the committee wrote to Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, demanding more than five years of inspection records and internal protocol documents.

The committee said it wants all documents from both companies and the federal food safety agencies by Sept. 7. A hearing on egg safety and the Salmonella recall is considered likely when Congress returns from August recess.

Earlier this week, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the committee that oversees FDA and USDA appropriations, sent a letter to both agencies asking why they did not take action against DeCoster farms, which operates Wright County Egg, despite numerous violations.

“Workers were forced to handle manure and dead chickens with their bare hands and to live in filthy trailers, state environmental laws were violated repeatedly, and the company failed to disclose its investment in egg operations in another state to avoid a background check,” writes DeLauro in her letter to the agencies. “This pattern of regulatory non-compliance by the DeCoster operations should have served as a warning to regulators and warranted additional scrutiny of the company’s ability to comply with food safety standards.”

DeLauro also wants to know what the FDA knew about DeCoster’s compliance with the newly-implemented egg rule, what role egg graders from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service may have had at the plant, and whether any recalled eggs were sold into the federal nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program.
 

© Food Safety News
  • Could this mean that Rep. DeLauro and Congress are going to finally begin to focus on the failure of the FDA (and USDA?) to use their existing power to assure food safety? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful change in their attitudes?
    Commissioner Hamburg has simply followed the clear path blazed by others before her at the FDA: Change the focus from the FDA’s poor performance by crying that the FDA doesn’t have enough “authorities.”
    Dr. Hamburg has great role models, particularly, Dr. David Acheson former Asst. Commissioner for Food Protection at the FDA (and its first “Food Safety Czar”). During the 2008 tomato fiasco, Dr. Acheson was able to fully deflect stinging rebukes on poor epidemiological work made exponentially worse by astonishingly poorly written alerts that cratered the entire tomato market that year by proclaiming the FDA’s hands were tied by slow traceability and lack of legal authority. Neither was true. It was “smoke and mirrors” then and it is still is with Commissioner Hamburg.
    Ironically, Dr. Acheson is now questioning whether the new FDA Shell Egg Rule would have made any difference had it been in place earlier (“‘The administration would like to believe that if this rule was in place, we would have prevented this,’ he said. ‘My experience in the trenches is I doubt that very much.'” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/business/25eggs.html?_r=1&ref=andrew_martin).
    Could it be that the fact that Dr. Acheson is no longer at the FDA or that he is now a consultant that the FDA could hire has made a difference?
    We need both houses of Congress to hold hearings to investigate the FDA’s and USDA’s recent pitiful performance and hold them accountable. Without accountability at the FDA and USDA, safe food will always remain an illusive goal.

  • Could this mean that Rep. DeLauro and Congress are going to finally begin to focus on the failure of the FDA (and USDA?) to use their existing power to assure food safety? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful change in their attitudes?
    Commissioner Hamburg has simply followed the clear path blazed by others before her at the FDA: Change the focus from the FDA’s poor performance by crying that the FDA doesn’t have enough “authorities.”
    Dr. Hamburg has great role models, particularly, Dr. David Acheson former Asst. Commissioner for Food Protection at the FDA (and its first “Food Safety Czar”). During the 2008 tomato fiasco, Dr. Acheson was able to fully deflect stinging rebukes on poor epidemiological work made exponentially worse by astonishingly poorly written alerts that cratered the entire tomato market that year by proclaiming the FDA’s hands were tied by slow traceability and lack of legal authority. Neither was true. It was “smoke and mirrors” then and it is still is with Commissioner Hamburg.
    Ironically, Dr. Acheson is now questioning whether the new FDA Shell Egg Rule would have made any difference had it been in place earlier (“‘The administration would like to believe that if this rule was in place, we would have prevented this,’ he said. ‘My experience in the trenches is I doubt that very much.'” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/business/25eggs.html?_r=1&ref=andrew_martin).
    Could it be that the fact that Dr. Acheson is no longer at the FDA or that he is now a consultant that the FDA could hire has made a difference?
    We need both houses of Congress to hold hearings to investigate the FDA’s and USDA’s recent pitiful performance and hold them accountable. Without accountability at the FDA and USDA, safe food will always remain an illusive goal.