FDA official: Agency needs more authority
Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010 8:47 pm
WASHINGTON (AP) — Food and Drug Administration chief Margaret Hamburg, beset with an egg-and-salmonella food safety challenge, said today the agency must move from a reactive to preventive enforcement strategy.
Giving a series of network interviews in the wake of some 1,300 salmonella cases from tainted eggs, Hamburg said the FDA is taking the issue “very, very seriously.” At the same time, she said Congress should pass pending legislation that would provide her agency with greater enforcement power, including new authority over imported food.
“We need better abilities and authorities to put in place these preventive controls and hold companies accountable,” Hamburg said as she discussed the salmonella poisoning outbreak and the recall of roughly a half-billion eggs from two Iowa egg distributors.
She also had some practical advice for consumers: Reject over-easy eggs. She said that as federal investigators continue their work with the companies involved, consumers should strictly avoid “runny egg yolks for mopping up with toast.”
The number of illnesses, which can be life-threatening, especially to those with weakened immune systems, is expected to increase. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever eight to 72 hours after eating a contaminated product.
Two Iowa farms linked to the disease outbreak — Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms — share suppliers of chickens and feed as well as ties to an Iowa business with a history of violating state and federal law.
Jewanna Porter, a spokeswoman for the egg industry, said the company Quality Egg supplies young chickens and feed to both Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms.
The two share other suppliers, she said, but she did not name them.
The egg industry has consolidated over recent years, placing fewer, larger businesses in control over much of the nation’s egg supply to consumers.
The salmonella outbreak has raised questions about federal inspections of egg farms. The FDA oversees inspections of shell eggs, while the Agriculture Department is in charge of inspecting other egg products.
William D. Marler, a Seattle attorney for a person who filed suit alleging illness from tainted eggs in a salad at a restaurant in Kenosha, Wis., said Sunday his firm has been retained by two dozen families and was representing a woman who was hospitalized in California.
Published in The Messenger 8.23.10