- The eggs came from two farms in Iowa but (as of today) were distributed under 35 different labels, giving consumers the impression that the eggs were from many different places.
- Only "192 large egg companies own about 95 percent of laying hens in this country, down from 2,500 in 1987." Wash. Post 8/24/10
- The FDA regulates the eggs and the USDA regulates the chickens. Wash. Post 8/24/10
- The two farms where the contaminated originated were never inspected WSJ 8/23/10
- The farms had the same supplier and he was cited before for safety violations. NY Times 8/27/10
- Scientists predicted a problem of this magnitude would happen. LA Times 8/24/10
- The US rejected a plan implemented by the UK to vaccinate chickens which has dramatically decreased salmonella in the UK from eggs, even though the cost of the vaccination program added only fractions of a penny to the cost of an egg. NY Times 8/25/10
These conditions do not change because we love our cheaply produced food. Instead we blame our government (which we really wish were smaller) when our cheap food makes us sick. I have seen three articles, one in the Wash. Post (see above), one in the NY Times and one in the Atlantic that have focused on the failure of the government to coordinate the regulation of our cheap eggs, because different agencies have different responsibilities. And yet, when there was an opportunity to do something that has been proven effective, the Bush Administration FDA apparently acceded to the demands of Big "Farma" and nixed lost cost vaccination for the chickens.
Thinking that the problem can be fixed by putting a bandaid on administrative issues seems underwhelming. The bigger problem is our ignorance as a nation of the sources of our food and our reliance on cheap food produced in any way possible to maximize profits and limit costs in the short term. The long term costs, as exemplified by this salmonella outbreak, and eventually by the illnesses deriving from obesity caused by our addictive processed food supply (see David Kessler's book, The End of Overeating) will come back to roost!