As the dust settles on another large national recall linked to a significant number of human illnesses, Foodfacts.com has to ask what lessons can be learned from this episode. As with all major food safety lapses there are multiple lessons to be gleaned that has impact for the food industry, for consumers, for regulators and for Congress. Following are clips from a post by QA Advisory Board Member David Acheson.
* What can the Industry learn? – If there are lessons in this for the industry one of the main ones is “know your supply chain”. This point is relevant to the poultry farmer in terms of having confidence the feed being used does not contain Salmonella. It also pertains to those who are receiving the eggs downstream at the retail end. A second important point is that farmers who produce shell eggs need to understand that they are producing a food (a shell egg) that often does not go through a “kill step” before being consumed (e.g. when that egg is eaten with a runny yolk). So it is critical that the egg production facilities recognize that they are effectively producing a ready to eat food and take the appropriate food safety measures.
* What can Consumers learn? – First – to recognize that they have options. If a consumer wants to enjoy a “safe” runny egg then consider eating pasteurized eggs that are now available in their shells. The pasteurization process will destroy Salmonella and effectively render the egg safe to eat even if runny. Second – if you are in the at risk population (young, old or immune compromised) don’t take the risk with eggs that may contain Salmonella. Accidents can happen on the farm and statistically, while there is only about a one in 15,000 chance you will come across a contaminated shell egg, with 300 million U.S. consumers exposures to contaminated eggs does occur at a rate that means consumers should pay attention if they are in the high risk groups.
* What can Regulators and Congress learn? For the regulators and as a message to Congress the recent outbreak has illustrated many of the fundamental problems that exist with the U.S. food safety system. The first issue is “Who has jurisdiction of which part of the egg supply chain?” is it USDA or is it FDA? The answer to this is the classic “it depends”. The current approach to regulatory oversight is confusing and not as effective as it could be. Congress should take a hard look at jurisdiction simplification to address an overly complex situation that leaves no one Agency fully charged with and accountable for minding the hen house.
While you cannot inspect your way to food safety, more inspections are needed and to do that FDA needs both more inspectors and more resources. Finally a lesson is that it is unacceptable for any regulatory process to take as long as it took for the egg regulation to be put in place. The overall process was some twelve years in the making. If we were really serious about food safety we would be looking more toward twelve months not twelve years to enact regulations that have the potential for significant positive public health impact.
Source and Image: Quality Assurance Mag