photo by Tom Phung via getty images

An egg-splainer

Tim Nelson
January 11, 2018

Though their last big move was to create confusion over what exactly constitutes an organic egg, Trump’s USDA has introduced a proposed new rule this week designed to clarify matters.

Proposed by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the new rule would require producers at “breaker plants” (where egg shells are removed to turn them into “egg products”)  to develop safety plans and adopt other measures designed to prevent the outbreak of salmonella and other foodborne pathogens. According to the American Egg Board, the amorphously-defined “egg products” designation includes everything from whole eggs to whites and yolks in frozen, refrigerated, or liquid form. 

What does that mean for consumers? In essence, the proposal would bring the policies governing safe egg production in line with the standards already in place for meat and poultry. This will include the implementation of things like Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points systems, as well as additional sanitation requirements. Additionally, regulations would also specify that these egg products must be considered edible without the need for additional preparation methods in order to be deemed safe. 

It’s also worth noting that this rule change is unrelated to the egg crisis that swept through Europe last summer, which had to do with poultry farmers pumping their chickens full of fipronil. Instead, it targets an intermediate step in the supply chain between when eggs are collected from farms and sold to consumers. 

The creation of a new rule governing food health and safety seems out of character for the new-look USDA under Trump. So far, their only major initiative has been to scale back the requirements for what constitutes an organic egg, and the introduction of new regulations seems out of step with the tone of an administration hell-bent on cutting any and all red tape. 

As USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg sees it, this is more a case of bringing egg inspection rules in line with broader standards rather than creating new burdensome regulations that would interfere with free market innovation. “As we continue to modernize inspection systems and processes, we are committed to strengthening consistency across the services that FSIS inspection personnel carry out for the consuming public," she said in a statement.

You’ll want to wait a bit before you start chugging a carton of liquid egg whites, though. The public comment period will last for 120 days after the proposed regulation is published in the Federal Register

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