Friday, September 03, 2010

Egg buyers may look to strengthen their own inspection rules

In the wake of a massive egg recall that has left questions about federal food safety regulations, some egg buyers are considering boosting their own food safety regulations. Costco, one of the companies that bought eggs included in the recall, "will start requiring all of its suppliers to vaccinate their hens against salmonella," Phillip Brasher of the Des Moines Register reports. "Inoculating hens is considered a good, though not foolproof, way to prevent salmonella contamination in eggs."

"There are a lot of guys going, 'Hey, wait a minute. [Investigators] are finding stuff and our guys were there and they didn't see it,'" Craig Wilson, who oversees food safety for Costco, told Brasher. The companies previous inspections at the Hillandale farm where the salmonella outbreak started were done by an outside firm, which focused on ensuring the hens were treated humanely. Still those auditors should have noticed the rodent holes later found by federal investigators in the Hillandale henhouses, Wilson told Brasher.

"Some retailers or food service companies are considering requiring egg farms to have salmonella-prevention measures in place, and more farms are expected to seek certification under a quality-assurance program operated by the Food Marketing Institute, a supermarket trade group," Brasher writes. "More than 100 egg processors are certified under the institute's program for packing facilities, but only one egg farm, in California, is certified as a producer." To gain certification farms must be inspected by auditors, who are accredited by the program.

"I guarantee there will be a lot of interest in that," Ken Klippen, an official with Minnesota egg producer Sparboe Farms, told Brasher. "We don't want to go through this again." Howard Magwire, vice president of government relations for the United Egg Producers, noted the certification program can be costly to farmers, and his group is looking "at starting some kind of program that producers can use to assure customers that farms are preventing salmonella contamination," Brasher writes. (Read more)

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