On Sept. 28, food safety inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began inspecting more than 600 egg-producing farms under the new “egg rule,” which requires producers with 50,000 or more laying hens to implement Salmonella-prevention measures and maintain records. The plan is for the FDA inspectors to visit all of these plants, which supply more than 80% of the nation’s eggs, within the next 15 months.
The rule’s safety standards are meant to prevent outbreaks of Salmonella enteriditis (SE) like the one that recently led to the recall of more than 500 million eggs from two Iowa farms. “We think that the industry’s compliance with this rule will significantly reduce the risk of SE infections and outbreaks in the future,” said Mike Taylor, JD, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods, in a public statement. “These inspections will help ensure high rates of compliance and, in turn, improve the safety of eggs.”
Bill Marler, a food safety attorney who represents some of those sickened in the egg outbreak, said the rule was long overdue. “Eggs are one of those particular food products that fall into this no-man’s-land between USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and FDA jurisdiction, and the problem really is how long it took to implement the egg rule,” he said.
But Marler said he worries the agency doesn’t have the resources to make the inspections effective without sacrifices somewhere else. “To look at the some 600 plants that now fall under inspection protocols of FDA, without more resources and inspectors, means taking resources away from inspecting other facilities that, as of now, only get inspected once every eight to 10 years,” he said. “We’re setting them up to fail by beating them up and then not giving them more resources.”