The Food and Drug Administration took in a “healthy egg” petition last month at practically the same time as a Salmonella Braenderup outbreak brought the recall of 207 million eggs, the biggest egg recall since 2010.

“Healthy eggs” claims are made outside of any concerns about the likelihood of pathogen contamination. “Healthy” is a sought-after label claim that requires compliance with  federal dietary guidance.

Labels cannot currently claim that eggs are “healthy” because they are high in dietary cholesterol. Pete & Gerry’s, an organic egg producer out of Monroe, NH, argue in a Citizen’s Petition to FDA that eggs are among the higher fat foods that contain mostly healthy fats, or mono or polyunsaturated fats.

“While nutrition experts recognize eggs as a nutritious food, many would probably be surprised to learn that federal regulations prohibit the use of the word “healthy” to describe eggs,” says Jesse Laflamme, Peter & Gerry’s CEO. “Our goal with this petition is to encourage FDA to bring outdated regulations in line with current nutritional science and general consumer awareness and thereby help shoppers make more informed choices in the grocery store aisle.”

The Pete & Gerry’s 17-page petition says eggs are also a definite source of vitamins A and C, along with iron, calcium, protein, dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin D.

One official source seems to agree with some of the petition’s points. The so-called “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” are no longer concerned about dietary choices that involve dietary cholesterol. United Egg Producers made the same arguments in 2016’s FDA review of health claims.

The Pete & Gerry’s petition says eggs contain now permittable mono and polyunsaturated fat with a good source of protein and choline, vitamin D.

The egg producer says FDA “has failed to recognize the current science showing the dietary cholesterol is no longer a concern and that eggs fit in a healthy dietary pattern, despite their fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content.”

Pete & Gerry’s wants FDA to “fast track” new labeling requirements on eggs and other nutrient-dense foods. In the meantime, Pete & Gerry’s is running a social media campaign of its own to promote why consumers should choose healthy eggs.

In its Federal Register notice the last time FDA requested information and comments, the agency asked for input on a citizen’s petition on a range of issues related to the “healthy” claim, including:

  • Is the term “healthy” most appropriately categorized as a claim based only on nutrient content?
  • What types of food, if any, should be allowed to bear the term ‘‘healthy?”
  • What nutrient criteria should be considered for the definition of the term “healthy?”
  • What are the public health benefits, if any, of defining the term “healthy” or other similar words in food labeling?
  • What is consumers’ understanding of the meaning of the term “healthy” as it relates to food?

FDA admits its review and updating process isn’t happening overnight, but “may take some time, but we want to get it right.”

At the same time, Pete & Gerry’s filed their “healthy egg” petition, as one of the nation’s largest egg producers, Rose Acres Farms of Seymour, IN, recalled 207 million eggs that were distributed both domestically and overseas. As of April 16, there were 23 people across nine states who had been confirmed with Salmonella Braenderup infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Six of the people were admitted to hospitals.

The Rose Acres egg recall is the largest of its kind since 2010.