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Egg recall may indicate problems in US food safety oversight

The New York Times (8/25, B1, Martin) reports on the front page of its Business Day section that as the FDA begins investigating the salmonella outbreak linked to recalled eggs, "some consumer advocates say the huge egg recall highlights a broader and continuing problem at the heart of the nation's largest food recalls: a highly complicated and often dysfunctional food safety system." While the "FDA oversees the safety of eggs still in their shells...the Agriculture Department regulates liquid eggs that are used in industrial food production," and has responsibility "for chickens and the grading of eggs for quality." Yet, neither the FDA nor the Agriculture Department inspected either farm. And, although FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that earlier implementation of new egg safety rules may have averted the outbreak, former FDA official Dr. David Acheson expressed doubts.

        Similarly, the CBS Evening News (8/24, story 4, 1:50, Smith) reported, "Still no firm word on the number of people who got sick after eating tainted eggs. There could be more than a thousand and the recall is growing." Meanwhile, Caroline Smith DeWaal, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, noted, "When you have multiple agencies in charge of a single issue, sometimes no one's in charge." ABC (Quijano) added that one "report found most" US food production facilities "have gone without an FDA inspection for at least five years despite recent recalls of tainted spinach, tomatoes and peanut butter. The FDA and critics agree, the next step lies with Congress to pass a food safety bill that's now stalled in the Senate."

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