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Center for Consumer Freedom
A Little Perspective on Eggs
August 24, 2010

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the media fanfare
over the recall of 550 million eggs that are thought to be at risk for
contamination with Salmonella. Unsurprisingly, the usual activist
groups are using the news to advance their agendas. The animal-rights
"Humane Society" of the United States (HSUS) is gunning for egg
producers to go “cage-free.” PETA, meanwhile, is embracing HSUS's
long-term agenda right now and arguing for completely vegan diets.

Piggybacking on a media-driven food scare is the worst sort of
opportunism. We described last week how HSUS is cherry-picking poultry
science, and how cage-free eggs may not hold any foodborne-illness
advantage at all.
[b] (And experts agree.)
And PETA seems to be forgetting
the major outbreaks of past years involving Salmonella in tomatoes and
peanut butter—you know, staple foods of vegan diets.

For the larger context in which all of this is happening, here are a
few other Salmonella recalls that have been issued just in the past

-A recall of pistachio products
-Another recall of pistachio products
-A recall of mamey pulp
-A recall of alfalfa sprouts

Salmonella is just one of many foodborne illnesses (remember E. coli
in spinach?), and it can pop up in plenty of non-egg foods.

And how does today’s food system compare to the past? Consider this:
In 1967, The New York Times reported that there had been 17,000
reported U.S. cases of Salmonella illness during the previous year. In
one 1965 case alone, a tainted well made 18,000 people sick.

In contrast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s
Foodborne Outbreak Online Database shows that there were only about
3,500 reported cases of Salmonella (of all kinds) in 2007, the most
recent year data for which is available. (This number includes simply
“suspected” cases, too.) And on the whole, reports of Salmonella
incidence were down 10 percent in 2009 compared to the 1996-1998
period, according to the CDC.

Further, from 1998 to 2007 the CDC database shows there were about
10,200 cases of reported Salmonella Enteritidis. In comparison,
despite the large number of eggs recalled, the current “outbreak” has
been linked to just 300 illnesses as of this morning. While this
figure could increase, the current Salmonella cases represent a fairly
small event.

We’re confident that mistakes that caused the outbreak will be
rectified as our food systems continue to become more secure. In the
meantime, here’s a simple solution: Cook your eggs well, and turn off
the television.

Mac Leod Motto