The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced yesterday that it will hold a hearing next month to address the safety of the nation’s food supply in the wake of the current Salmonella outbreak linked to two Iowa farms. The outbreak has led to the recall of about 550 million eggs and 1,470 reported illnesses believed to be related to the contaminated eggs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has linked a bacteria found in chicken feed used at the Iowa farms to the salmonella outbreak that prompted the recall.
This isn’t the first time bad eggs have resulted in a salmonella outbreak. With more than 95 percent of all U.S. eggs currently coming from caged hens (where the hens are crammed into cages so small they can’t even lift a single wing), you can’t help but wonder if there is a connection between the salmonella outbreaks and the practice of caging hens. Several scientific, peer-reviewed journals have published studies in the past few years concluding increased salmonella rates in eggs coming from facilities that confine hens in cages. While cage-free does not mean cruelty-free, the hens do have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens, allowing them to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and turn around.
What You Can Do:
- Click here for a list of the eggs recalled.
- If you are going to eat eggs, seek out organic and free-range eggs.
- Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated prevents any Salmonella present in the eggs from growing to higher numbers, so eggs should be kept refrigerated until they are used.
- Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
- Cooking reduces the number of bacteria present in an egg; however, an egg with a runny yolk still poses a greater risk than a completely cooked egg. Undercooked egg whites and yolks have been associated with outbreaks of Salmonella. Both should be consumed promptly and not be kept warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Click here if you’d like to sign the Humane Society “Cage-Free Pledge.”
What Others Are Doing:
- As of January 2012, it will be illegal to house laying hens in cages anywhere in the Europe. In the U.S., Michigan and California have already passed laws phasing out the practice of restricting hens to undersized and immobile cages.
- Hellmann’s Mayo, which uses 350 million eggs a year, has announced plans to go 100% cage-free.
- Trader Joe’s, Burger King, Wal-Mart, Subway and Wendy’s are in talks to start buying and selling cage-free.