Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eggs 2

More Different Eggs

Were the eggs Paul and I bought tainted in some way that the Republican owners of the Vallarta Supermarket chain were aware off, hence the low, low prices to get rid of them... and maybe knock off their Democratic customers?
No, not likely.
Besides, I've already eaten a whole bunch of these eggs and I'm just fine............
Wait a minute please...........
Ooopps, just indigestion. I feel much better now, thank you.
Or do I?
But there does seem to be a problem. And not only with eggs.
Beginning August 13th a massive egg recall was announced affecting 550,000 shell eggs (eggs that are still in the shell) from two farms in Iowa, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, who share some of the same suppliers, one of them being the company, Quality Egg, which supplies chickens and feed to the two massive farms.
What's the problem? A little rod shaped bacteria called salmonella, first discovered in 1885. The second Wikipedia quote at the beginning of Part 1 of this post states: "About 142,000 Americans are infected each year with Salmonella enteritidis from chicken eggs, and about 30 die." which indicates the disease fortunately has a rather low fatality rate. Common symptoms appearing approximately 72 hours after infection, include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches. In people with impaired immune systems (such as people with kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, or older people in general, can cause a life-threatening illness. As of last Thursday, the federal Center for Disease Control said that there could now be as many as 1,470 instances of illness linked to the current outbreak, which began in May, weeks before new regulations were scheduled to be enacted to reduce this risk.
Officials state they have detected the salmonella in feed provided to laying hens.
Wright County Egg and Quality Egg are both owned by businessman Austin "Jack" DeCoster, who has, since at least 1994, been designated an "habitual violator" of environmental regulations, has enacted health and safety violations, employment discrimination, allegations of animal cruelty have been made. The state of his farms have been described by officials as "simply atrocious," citing unguarded machinery, electrical hazards, exposure to harmful bacteria and other unsanitary conditions. DeCoster's farms have been cited, fined, raided, yet he is still one of the nation's leading suppliers of one of the country's favorite food staples.
Why? Well, if he doesn't do it who will? These types of operations have consolidated over the years, becoming increasingly "Too big to fail."
550,000 recalled shelled eggs (other egg products that are not still in the shell are still being produced by Wright County Egg and Hillandale, which are deemed safe as the products go through a pasteurization process) is a lot of eggs, but still only represents .7% of the 70 billion annual national output. And most of these eggs are produced on huge industrialized "farms" where a single barn may house more than 150,000 birds in tight proximity, mostly by hens who spend their lives in cages the size of an open newspaper, their whole lives in a space so confined they can never spread their wings. This close proximity allows infections to spread quickly and widely. No wonder there are so many recalls of food products.
So many? Yeap. Just since August13th, 6 companies have voluntarily recalled their products due to safety concerns, chiefly concerns about salmonella infection. From frozen mamey (a fruit product), to “Beef Filet Squares” for Dogs and “Texas Hold’ems” pet treats, to pistachio nuts, to alfalfa sprouts.
The funny thing about this egg recall is that it was largely preventable, not only through use of clean, sanitary, and humane production values and procedures (The European Union will bar small cages for egg hens as of 2012. Citizens in California demanded banning small cages by 2015, and the state will not allow the sale of eggs in California produced that way in other states. Michigan, Ohio and other states have placed limits on future caging of hens), but through vaccinations.
More than a decade ago Britain was faced with a similar outbreak of salmonella infecting thousands of people. A vaccination program was instituted which virtually wiped out the health threat.
So faced with the very same problem in this country, did regulators include a simple and effective salmonella vaccination program (that would cost less than a penny per dozen eggs), in their new regulations?
Nope. They stated there was not enough evidence that vaccinating hens would prevent illness. Not enough evidence, despite Britain's history. This is the U.S.A.! We don't want to be like those Europeans, now do we? No we do things our own way here in the states, and the Food and Drug Administration did not mandate vaccinations, and we have over 1,400 citizens sick all across the country, with half a billion or so eggs we can't, or shouldn't eat.
Why do these types of disasters keep occurring? Why the economic crisis, the Gulf oil spill, a massive egg recall. How's that free market, Milton Friedman/Alan Greenspan, deregulated market working out for us? Do I miss Bush, the T-shirts and billboard ask?
No, I do not. America does not.
I believe the Federal government exists in order to protect its citizens. From foreign threats, to domestic capitalistic concerns that would rip off the average citizen for as much as possible for as long as possible. From the banks that would foreclose our homes, and stick us with arbitrary interest rates on our credit cards, to food processors and providers, fast food chains, who would poison us, who have poisoned us, just to make a buck. To the oil industry, and the politicians they control who keep denying climate change and global warming is a threat to this world, to the fishing industry who is depleting our vast oceans. I believe the government has a vital role in safeguarding the public from runaway capitalism. And regulation of industry is a vital part of that.
The Republicans don't believe that. They say markets will self-correct. They'll say that the recalls discussed above were all voluntary which proves their point. It doesn't. The issuing companies were just aware of the problem and knew they would have to take action themselves or be forced to do it, and probably face massive liability lawsuits in the bargain. The market never corrects itself unless it is forced to do so because it costs money to do so, and money is their God.
A proposed amendment, S 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, requires among other things "the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare the National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy.

Requires the Secretary to: (1) identify preventive programs and practices to promote the safety and security of food; (2) promulgate regulations on sanitary food transportation practices; (3) develop a policy to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and early childhood education programs; (4) allocate inspection resources based on the risk profile of food facilities or food; (5) recognize bodies that accredit food testing laboratories; and (6) improve the capacity of the Secretary to track and trace raw agricultural commodities." It's only goal is to make our food supply safer and secure.

This amendment has been languishing in committee since November of last year. Republicans don't like it because it restricts a free market with those dreaded regulations they hate so much, and they claim that small farms will be unduly restricted from doing business, their reason for opposing it.

I think I've we've heard that argument before, something to do with the Bush Tax Cuts expiring, and small businesses. S 510 doesn't affect small farms and individual, private producers, but it doesn't necessarily protect them either, so the Tester-Hagan amendments were added to S 510 to do just that. We'll see what argument the Republicans come up with to oppose food safety now. Maybe they'll come up with something new.

In any case it's time for me to make dinner... perhaps a nice cheese omelet is in order.

Oh yes, regarding the first Wikipedia quote at the beginning of the first part of this post... here's the rest of that quote: "The regulation was promulgated, according to the FDA, 'because of the public health impact of turtle-associated salmonellosis.' There had been reported cases of young children placing small turtles in their mouths, which led to the size-based restriction."

Just an FYI. Try and keep from sucking on turtles.

Hear that Erin?

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the Tester amendment wasn't added. It was 3 others.. the Brown, Bennet, and Sanders amendments.

    The Tester amendment is a big loophole based on an arbitrary income level under which any high-risk, high-impact corporate subsidy could be exempt.

    Luckily, it is not attached. Here is how the other 3 and the current text of S. 510 have protected small businesses.


    Oh, and this bill is bipartisan and has Republican co-sponsers. It is a matter of scheduling that is holding this bill up.. the issue now is getting it to the floor for a vote.