A lot of attention—in the news and at FDA—has focused on the safety of fresh produce, but we are taking steps to make other foods that we regulate safer as well. Eggs are one of those foods.
As of last Friday, egg producers that have large operations—50,000 or more laying hens—are required to take a number of important steps to reduce Salmonella. These large producers account for about 80 percent of egg production in this country, so the new requirements will have a large public health impact.
In fact, we expect the rule to prevent about 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths per year caused by a specific strain of Salmonella called enteritidis. This pathogen can be particularly dangerous for infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those whose immune systems may be weakened due to a chronic illness.
This rule is consistent with our focus on preventing food safety problems before they happen. We have been working for many years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which shares the responsibility for egg safety, to require steps along the farm-to-table chain to limit the growth of Salmonella. What's new about the new requirements is that they address egg production using modern testing and preventive measures, so they will help stop contamination from occurring in the first place.