Safe Handling Begins on the Farm, Not in the Home

Statement of Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI Food Safety Director on the Issuance of The Food and Drug Administration’s Final Rule on the Labeling and Refrigeration of Shell Eggs


 The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) newly released final rule on shell egg labeling and refrigeration provides new tools to prevent food poisoning from eggs, but doesn’t go as far as it should to prevent the estimated 660,000 illnesses and 330 deaths linked to contaminated eggs each year.

     For the first time, FDA will require that mandatory instructions be placed on cartons of unpasteurized eggs, which the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) requested more than three years ago. These new safe handling labels will provide a useful reminder to consumers of the steps they can take to avoid getting sick from contaminated eggs.

     While CSPI applauds the Clinton administration for requiring warning labels for eggs cartons, FDA’s work is far from done. CSPI’s report, Outbreak Alert, documented that since 1990, eggs and egg dishes have been linked to nearly 200 foodborne illness outbreaks—mostly from Salmonella enteritidis (SE).

     The best way to prevent outbreaks and illnesses is to prevent contaminated eggs from reaching the market to begin with. For this reason, CSPI has long advocated on-farm SE monitoring and control programs, which can achieve dramatic reductions in SE prevalence. Safe handling instructions on egg cartons are not enough. Safe handling begins on the farm, not in the home.

     Unfortunately, FDA’s new rule also contains refrigeration requirements that, while an improvement on existing standards, are insufficient to fully protect consumers.

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