As lawmakers heard testimonies yesterday concerning the largest egg recall in U.S. history, food safety advocates hoped the congressional probe would encourage the passage of the long-delayed Food Safety Modernization Act, which would give more power to the Food and Drug Administration.
"Recalls and outbreaks are the most public consequence of our ‘horse and buggy’ food safety system," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in a release. “Consumers are sometimes sickened and everyone up and down the chain has to check for, remove and destroy the contaminated products. Only Congress can fix the underlying problems by passing legislation that has been languishing in the Senate for over a year.”
This year, consumers have seen a significant number of recalls including romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli bacteria in May, lobster meat found with Listeria in June and most recently eggs tainted with salmonella.
In his first public comments since the egg recall, Wright County Egg’s Austin “Jack” DeCoster said, “We apologize to everyone who may have been sickened by eating our eggs,” according the Associated Press. During the hearing, lawmakers questioned the Galt, Iowa-based egg producer on the facility’s sanitation.
Salmonella poisoning linked to Wright eggs has sickened some 1,600 people in at least 22 states, according to federal officials.
A week earlier the U.S. Senate voted to not pass the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act before midterm elections, disappointing industry and consumer groups.
“We are extremely disappointed that the U.S. Senate has announced that it will not take up the Food Safety Modernization Act before going to recess,” said Leslie Sarasin, president/CEO of the Food Marketing Institute. “All of us—food industry, business groups, consumer groups—all believe this bi-partisan legislation should be passed by the Senate without further delay. This is a balanced bill focused on prevention. America’s consumers are counting on a public-private partnership to protect the safety of our food supply.”
Among the goals of the bill (S. 510) are to provide the FDA with more power to inspect and recall foods and to create five regional centers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with local public health agencies to combat foodborne illnesses.