News / USA

Massive Egg Recall Raises Food Safety Questions

Congress considers enacting new food laws

The recent egg contamination is one of the largest salmonella outbreaks ever recorded in the US.
The recent egg contamination is one of the largest salmonella outbreaks ever recorded in the US.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

This month, authorities ordered more than half a billion eggs off the shelves at American supermarkets due to fears of salmonella. More than 1,000 people have become sick after eating eggs contaminated with the disease-causing bacteria.

It's one of the largest salmonella outbreaks ever recorded in the U.S., and the most recent in a series of high-profile food borne disease outbreaks in recent years.

The outbreak may give new momentum to an effort to update U.S. food safety laws.

Deadly contamination

Ohio resident Randy Napier lost his mother in another recent food safety failure.

Shortly after New Year's Day last year, his 80-year-old mother, Nellie, became sick with several days of severe diarrhea.

"The only thing she likes to snack on is peanut butter on bread. So that's all she was eating," he says.

But as the Napiers soon discovered, peanut butter was at the center of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella. By the time doctors identified it as the culprit, Nellie was hospitalized. Her organs soon shut down.

Randy says she was in tremendous pain. "It was about four, five days of - excuse the language - just utter hell."

She died on January 26. Eight others died during the outbreak and more than 700 people in 46 states got sick.

Massive recall

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalled nearly 4,000 products and countless individual items, including crackers, cookies, cereal, ice cream and even dog food.

The scope of the outbreak surprised Randy Napier. "I could not even imagine something you go into the store and you buy off the shelf would kill you."  

All those products on store shelves across the country had one thing in common: they all contained peanuts produced by a single company: the Peanut Corporation of America.

This month, a new salmonella outbreak has triggered an FDA recall of more than 500 million eggs produced by two closely-linked farms.

The reason for these huge outbreaks has a lot to do with how Americans get their food today. Food manufacturers have gotten bigger and more efficient, pushing out most small, local operations.

"Foods are produced in large quantities and distributed widely across the country," says epidemiologist Robert Wallace at the University of Iowa. "And when there's a problem in the safety of that food, a lot of people are then exposed, and it's over a broad geographic area. And that's really the problem."

Illness not on the rise

But despite the big numbers when problems occur, Wallace says it's hard to know whether America's overall food safety is really suffering because most cases of food poisoning go unreported.

According to the best data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of salmonella infection haven't changed much in the last decade, and rates of many other food borne illnesses are declining.

While it's impossible to reduce outbreaks to zero, America's food supply is one of the safest in the world, according to Kelli Ludlum with the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation's largest farmers' group. It's also "what allows us to enjoy foods that we probably wouldn't be able to otherwise," she says.

Ludlum adds that Americans have made trade-offs for their modern food supply.

"Personally, I wouldn't want to go back to the food supply of 50 years ago. I don't cook that much. I certainly don't [preserve], so having to provide for myself all those things would be more than just inconvenient."

Outdated law

But while the way Americans feed themselves has changed over the last 50 years, the law governing food safety haven't, according to Erik Olson, head of food safety at the research and advocacy group the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Right now in the United States, we have an antiquated law that's over 70 years old," he says, "and it reacts to contamination problems rather than preventing them."

Congress is considering updating that law, and the latest outbreak may give that effort a push.

"Certainly FDA does need more resources. We've said that for a long time," says the Farm Bureau's Kelli Ludlum. "And they need more direction on how to use those resources."

The House of Representatives passed a food safety bill last year, but the Senate has not passed its version. Randy Napier, who lost his mother to Salmonella, is heading to Washington, DC, soon with a message for his senators.

"Granted, things are going to cost a little more to be safer," he says. "But it has to be safer. It has to be. Or the people are just gonna keep dying."

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid