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Top Food Safety Stories of 2011: No. 6

Although the government has a new priority of reducing Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), inspectors are still finding unsanitary conditions at big egg farms, which made egg regulations 2011’s 6th most important food safety story.

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A year after nearly 2,000 SE infections were linked to  Iowa eggs and a half billion table eggs were recalled, some of the country’s biggest egg producers still weren’t meeting minimum federal standards intended to guard against SE.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, said it is on track to enforce its new egg rule to control SE contamination with all big egg producers by year-end.

Americans eat a lot of eggs. Table egg production in September hit 6.49 billion eggs, enough for each person in the U.S. to consumer almost 21 dozen per year. Thorough cooking will kill the SE bacteria, but it can survive in eggs soft-boiled or over-easy, or in uncooked items like Caesar salads.

FDA’s job is to knock down the number of SE-contaminated eggs. Large egg producers fell under the rule in June 2010. In 2012, it will apply to the whole industry.

But despite the new federal rules intended to protect consumers against Salmonella, the problems that caused the massive outbreak in 2010 continue across the country.

Rose Acre and Sparboe Farms, for example, were found operating with numerous egg rule violations. SE was found inside an egg-laying house at the White County Egg Farm, but neither the Rose owners nor FDA suspended its sales.

The White County Egg Farm is Chicago’s largest egg supplier.

Sparboe had similar problems at its facilities in Minnesota, Iowa and Colorado, and ran into another problem when activists from a Chicago group called Mercy For Animals went undercover to record its animal handling.

Those videos prompted both McDonald’s Restaurants and Target Stores to stop buying eggs from Sparboe.

CORRECTION:

According to company attorney Joe Miller, our report that Rose Acre did not suspend sales was incorrect.

“Rose Acre farms took the proactive steps of suspending all shell egg sales from that farm immediately upon notification by FDA. Sales of shell eggs remained suspended from that location until two weeks ago. No shell egg sales from that facility where made for many months, ” Miller said in an email to Food Safety News.

He also said the SE found was an environmental positive, not an egg positive.

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