Egg Industry Tried to Water Down New Regs


By Laura Strickler, CBS News Investigative Unit

As CDC officials announce the number of salmonella cases has risen to 2,403, a letter obtained by CBS News shows the egg industry was trying to water down new egg regulations as far back as 2008.

New FDA egg regulations went into effect on July 9, 2010 and FDA officials have said that they believe if the new egg rules had been in effect earlier -  then this salmonella outbreak would not have happened.

An industry letter from February 29, 2008 to the FDA regarding the proposed egg rule says "...we believe it is time for FDA to put the risk of [salmonella] from eggs in context with risks from other foods, and also time for the agency to think realistically about the portion of its scarce resources it wishes to devote to regulating the egg industry." The letter also notes a decline in salmonella cases connected to eggs since 1990.

The industry notes that while it has lobbied Congress to boost FDA's budget for food safety it questions: "...does FDA really want to add more than 4,000 individual inspections of farms to its existing workload?"

While the letter was sent to the Bush Administration in 2008, meeting records at show the letter was also shared with Obama officials during a meeting on June 12, 2009.

As CBS News reported on Tuesday, an April 2010 report from the inspector general of Health and Human Services noted that more than half of all food facilities in the United States are inspected only once every five years or more. The farms that have recalled eggs had never been inspected by the FDA according to agency officials.

Current food safety legislation making its way through Congress would provide for more inspections. The House version would call for food facility inspections every six to 12 months while the Senate version would call for one inspection in the first five years of implementation to be followed by inspections every three years.