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

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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs