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Food safety and the egg recall

Here’s what you need to know about who is — or isn’t — protecting our nation’s food supply.

As 550 million eggs were recalled over the past two weeks for possible salmonella contamination, we learned that the owner of the farm that produced many of those eggs, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, has a history of health, worker safety, and environmental violations, spanning over two decades.  You may ask yourself: “Where was the FDA? Where was the USDA in all this?”

Well, actually, you don’t have to ask yourself, because we asked Gardiner Harris, the public health reporter for The New York Times.



  • Ann Marie Malden

    Your description of the failure of state and federal regulators to do their job in providing safe food regulations and inspections is pathetic – proof positive that we do not need all these government employees who do nothing except sit around in non-productive meetings. Purge the entire system and hire a group of mothers – they will ensure the process/production of eggs is safe for their children and the chickens.

  • Zachary Lyons, Seattle

    Gardiner Harris of the NYT completely misrepresented the concerns of small family farmers with food safety legislation in front of Congress, clearly exposing his bias. To suggest that small family farmers are not concerned with food safety is outrageous, and I challenge Mr. Harris to show us where these small family farmers have ever been part of the problem. But whenever big corporate agribusiness gets caught with its pants down, the first thing it suggests is new regulations which big ag can afford to follow and small, family farmers cannot. Big ag wants small, family farmers to disappear, so that they can control our entire food system — the land, the seeds, the “food”, everything.

    It is small, family farms, primarily through local farmers markets and local restaurants, that are providing the solutions to food safety and health concerns (obesity, diabetes, etc.) by setting a higher standard for their products – fresher, cleaner, fewer chemicals, better varieties, genetic diversity. But to ask small, family farmers to maintain the same exhaustive records as big ag on the sale of everything it produces when it is selling everything direct to the public at farmers markets is ridiculous, and is only intended to place an undue burden on the farmer.

    If someone gets sick from something they got at a farmers market (mind you, I’ve never heard of this happening), they wouldn’t need exhaustive records to find the source of that food. They would know right where it came from, because they got it directly from the farmer. So, Mr. Harris, step down out of your ivory tower at NYT and visit an NYC Greenmarket and talk to the customers and farmers there. Maybe you will get a clue. And thank you, US Senate, for still listening to the people. The day small, family farmers have undue influence on the Senate will be the day Gardiner (what an ironic name) Harris becomes worth his paycheck. That day is not today.

  • Ann Hagen

    I fail to understand the anger in the previous comments. We have a problem with egg production in this country and “Need to Know” was explaining that one department within the government was overseeing the egg production while a different one oversaw the chickens that laid the eggs, a truly ridiculous situation. President Cllinton revised that arrangement but President Bush changed it back essentially making no one in charge. President Obama is in the process of changing back to the Clinton administration arrangement. A law should be enacted by congress and has passed the house but is held up in the senate due to small local producers objecting to the same requirements as the large producers. No condemnation was made. Only the situation explained. I found it a fine program. To purge the entire system and hire mothers to oversee it seems a little disingenuous. What mothers are you going to hire to oversee the egg and chicken production and how would they do things differently. These same complainers probably want smaller government which means nobody will attempt to resolve contaminated chickens and eggs. I for one want this out in the open. Thank you “Need to Know” for explaining the problem. Hopefully, your airing this item will result in actions to clean up the eggs our families eat.

  • jan

    Suggestions that mothers do the jobs of scientists and technicians is not unlike suggesting teacher’s aides are the equivalent of teachers on the job.

    The difference between corporate farmers and small farmers is huge. Mr. Lyons is correct when he states the small farmer who sells at farmer’s markets usually allow their chickens freedom to roam the yard. They also might be the source of a variety of chicken breeds and egg shell colors; light blue, green, and deep chocolate brown. The problem the small farmer keeps encountering which will probably put most of them out of business eventually is the NAIS and mistakes in the process of being corrected such as the inclusion of muscovey ducks, a common duck on farms, as an invasive species (the hens can fly maybe 100 feet at a time) in the migratory bird category. (still rolling my eyes over that one)

    The corporate farmer has rows of cages that the chickens never leave. They (corporate farmers) tend to have other practices that I personally consider inhumane that small farmers don’t do. Corporate farm eggs tend to have lemon yellow yolks. Small farmer’s eggs tend to have orange egg yolks after running around the yard. I personally prefer hen-colored eggs and bright orange yolks.

    Another thought: When government gets so small and anemic that it can’t protect its citizens from contaminated food and other items that we use, it has become too small.

  • Caryl

    Organic farms are not “sort of organic,” as Mr. Harris said. They ARE inspected every year. They DO keep records and receipts that include lot numbers that make it possible to trace everything produced on their farm. Organic producers DO provide adequate space indoors and out for their livestock and poultry. Small family farms also maintain a stewardship of their land as they reap a moderate income. Huge corporate farms reap massive profits by recklessly neglecting reasonable health and safety precautions. They are free to risk OUR health and safety because OUR legislators represent corporate interests INSTEAD of OUR interests. THAT is why people are getting sick and even dying. Buy organic products if you want safe food. I have been an organic certification inspector since long before USDA got around to making federal rules and I have complete confidence in food that is organically produced. I did not have to wonder if I should feed my family eggs because we buy organic.

  • Jane Whitaker

    Mr. Harris leaves the viewer with the impression that small local farmers would not be regulated if excluded from the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, minimizing the fact that they are already regulated by state and local rules, which he implies are not sufficient. They are not sufficient to regulate huge Confined Animal Feeding Operations that ship across state lines, but adequete for small farms. Small, local producers of food need the Tester-Hagan amendment to the Food Safety Act to insure that they are not regulated out of business. Please call your representatives and ask them to support the Tester-Hagn amendment to S.510. See for more details.

  • J.V.Hodgson

    I really think it is simple you have as I was used to before being in US two standards.
    1) So called free range eggs. ( basic rule must have X hours per day outside the hen house and a large cage in the coop 1.5 times cage free size. I have always paid 20% more for free range eggs and never got salmomella. Farm name to appear on eggs/ containers/bags its enough regulation Tester Hagen?
    2) So called chicken farmed eggs. you can call them caged eggs or cage free eggs but they are both intensive chicken farmed eggs.
    As a previous commentator points out the regulations for 1&2 need to be totally different, and not a dictat by big farmers, the feed source regulations are critical.
    Also the worst joke in all this is it’s the chicken egg farmers who have the right to decide a recall, and as also noted two agencies involved in egg safety… one please a la Clinton.