Food Safety: U.S. Lacks a Consistent Farm-to-Table Approach to Egg Safety

RCED-99-184 Published: Jul 01, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 01, 1999.
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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the adequacy of the system for ensuring the safety of eggs, focusing on whether: (1) a prevention-based approach to food safety has been applied to egg production and processing; (2) a new federal policy on egg refrigeration will effectively reduce the risks associated with contaminated eggs; (3) federal and state policies on serving eggs to vulnerable populations and dating egg cartons are consistent; and (4) federal egg safety resources are used efficiently and policies are coordinated effectively.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To provide an organizational focus for the nation's egg safety policies and activities, Congress may wish to consider consolidating responsibility for egg safety in a single federal department.
Closed – Not Implemented
Congress has not chosen to take action on this recommendation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Food and Drug Administration To reduce the threat of SE contamination during egg production and processing, the Commissioner of Food and Drugs should develop a model hazard analysis and critical control point-based (HACCP) program for egg farms and processing plants, that could be adopted by the states. This program should define the minimum national standards, including microbial testing, for egg safety at these locations.
Closed – Implemented
FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition issued new rules for Egg Safety, which addresses this recommendation.
Department of Agriculture To enhance safety protections in egg products processing plants, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop regulations to require these plants to implement HACCP systems.
Closed – Implemented
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has developed regulations to implement this recommendation, which they plan to implement by December 2004.
Department of Agriculture To reduce the time needed to lower the internal temperature of eggs to 45 degrees, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Commissioner of Food and Drugs should jointly study the costs and benefits of implementing rapid cooling techniques in egg processing and packing operations and, depending on the results, take appropriate action.
Closed – Implemented
The December 1999 Egg Safety Action Plan, prepared by USDA and FDA, includes an objective to conduct additional research on commercial egg processing technologies, including rapid cooling before and after processing. USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) was assigned responsibility for this objective. In fiscal year 2000, ARS was appropriated funds to conduct research on the development of improved egg refrigeration systems. They are in the process of hiring someone to conduct the research.
Food and Drug Administration To reduce the time needed to lower the internal temperature of eggs to 45 degrees, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Commissioner of Food and Drugs should jointly study the costs and benefits of implementing rapid cooling techniques in egg processing and packing operations and, depending on the results, take appropriate action.
Closed – Implemented
The December 1999 Egg Safety Action Plan, prepared by USDA and FDA, includes an objective to conduct additional research on commercial egg processing technologies, including rapid cooling before and after processing. USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) was assigned responsibility for this objective. In fiscal year 2000, ARS was appropriated funds to conduct research on the development of improved egg refrigeration systems. They are in the process of hiring someone to conduct the research.

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