June 30, 2000
A costly new federal program to deal with the alleged problem of salmonella in eggs would put many small egg producers out of business, warn experts. The Clinton administration plan would require producers to pay for environmental testing at their egg farms -- looking for the presence of the Salmonella enteritidis (SE) bacterium in manure or anywhere else that it could thrive and potentially be consumed by an egg-laying chicken. If SE were detected anywhere on the farm -- not just in eggs themselves -- all eggs from the farm would be diverted from the retail market. The program would cost egg producers about $10 million.
Critics say the initiative is without scientific merit.
- Only one in 20,000 eggs might contain SE which could cause illness -- and then only if the egg is not properly cooked.
- It is estimated that there are perhaps 100 deaths per year linked to SE -- and not all of them linked to eggs.
- No such deaths were reported in 1999 in provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Since 1996, SE incidence has been cut in half due largely to quality assurance programs established voluntarily by egg producers.
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