Eco-Tip: The Incredible, Inedible Egg

The FDA website has updated information on the recalled eggs and how to read egg cartons for recalled products. Just this morning, two new egg brands were added to the growing recall list.

Some more tips:

1.  Cook Eggs Thoroughly: Cooking and baking generally kills salmonella, as long as eggs are cooked thoroughly. So soft boiled, over-easy, and runny scrambled eggs are out. Children especially should avoid these foods.

2. Avoid Raw Egg Ingredients: Foods with raw eggs, including some salad dressings, mayonnaise, smoothies, and other foods should be avoided.

3.  Store Eggs at 40 Degrees (F) or Below: Eat them within about three weeks of purchase.

4.  In the Kitchen, Treat Eggs Like Raw Poultry: after using eggs, wash any utensils, containers or surfaces they came in contact with (ie, wash countertops even if only eggs in the shell were on the counters), and wash your hands well after handling eggs.

5.  Don’t Be Fooled By Misleading Labels: Since the recall, many reports have conflated organic eggs with eggs labeled “cage free,” “free range,” or with other unverified claims. Most of these reports suggest that organic eggs are no different when it comes to salmonella. But for shoppers, organic is surely making a difference. Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperatively-owned organic farming business, supplies eggs across the country through its network of small, organic family farmers. The company reports that none of its eggs have been recalled, so consumers can look for the Organic Valley name on egg cartons.

In the wake of the recalls, Congress decided to look into the egg companies involved. Representative Rose DeLauro (D- CT) wanted to know whether the USDA school lunch program received any tainted eggs.

It turns out that there is a connection  between the second Iowa company named in the egg recalls, Hillandale LLC, and USDA’s food buying. Just days after the August 17 report of Hillandale’s Iowa operation being responsible for the recall, the USDA released its latest report on egg purchasing for federal food programs, presumably including USDA-run school food programs. The agency’s August 20 report notes that USDA is purchasing eggs from Hillandale’s Pennsylvania plant.

Now, this connection doesn’t suggest that USDA is buying tainted eggs. It does however raise the broader question: why is USDA buying eggs for school lunches from companies running factory farms with dubious safety, animal welfare and worker rights histories?

In addition to Hillandale, USDA regularly buys eggs from Rose Acre Farms, which was cited earlier this year by the Humane Society for its animal abuses, and was named a “factory farm offender” by the animal rights group Farm Sanctuary. Another USDA supplier, Deb-El foods of New York is currently subject of an NLRB investigation for its egregious union-busting tactics.

But corruption in the egg industry isn’t only related to food safety, animal abuses, worker rights violations, and environmental crimes. The industry also preys on consumers: in June, several major egg companies agreed to pay $25 million to settle claims that their price-fixing was responsible for bilking consumers out of millions of dollars.

Despite this lengthy record of crimes, the government seems intent to continue putting egg producers’ interests over public health. An FDA spokesperson has acknowledged that the “recalled” salmonella-tainted eggs may be sold to food companies after being pasteurized. FDA probably forgot that, in 2001, a batch of pasteurized eggs were recalled due to salmonella poisoning.

Perhaps the best news for the egg industry came late yesterday, when USDA announced a recall of 380,000 pounds of Tyson foods ham and beef lunch meat sold at Walmart, due to contamination with Listeria bacteria.

Guess that means ham and eggs are off the menu. Bon Appetit!