The Wall Street Journal today lambasted the USDA and FDA, though less specifically, for failure to communicate about many sanitation problems at Wright County Egg in the months during the current Salmonella debacle (a/k/a outbreak).
In written remarks, the USDA graders repeatedly noted problems with bugs, trash and egg residue. "The scanning equip[ment] had egg yolk everywhere," read an April 29 note. "Lots of bugs dead on the floor," read another on July 1.
The graders didn’t stop production. The USDA says that is because they notified the plant manager each morning when they saw issues, and facilities were cleaned up before production began. "The egg graders did their jobs," the USDA said in a statement.
Even in the week of Aug. 15-21, after the FDA inspectors arrived at Wright County, they didn’t know that USDA graders a few dozen feet away were marking their reports "unsatisfactory" day after day in critical areas, according to FDA officials.
When the FDA finally did come for an inspection in August, it found many sanitation problems at Wright’s henhouses including mice, maggots and manure piles as high as eight feet.
The article continues:
FDA food official Jeff Farrar said the two agencies needed to improve communication and they were working on it.
USDA officials have repeatedly said safety of eggs isn’t their job. They say badges such as "USDA Grade A" refer to the eggs’ size and color, and consumers shouldn’t interpret the grade as an indicator of safety.
Grading is optional for egg producers, but packaging eggs with a USDA shield allows them to charge more. The producers pay the USDA for the personnel.
Mr. Vilsack [Secretary of Agriculture] said this week: "Our people are focused on grading eggs. They are not necessarily focused on all of the other issues that the FDA had, and all the responsibilities FDA had."
Yet another reason for a more centralized, holistic regulatory approach to food safety (Food Safety Modernization Act?) Nah, just keep it like it is.