Thursday, 26 August 2010

Would Hen Vaccine Have Prevented Tainted Egg Salmonella Scandal?

More than 10 years ago, Great Britain began a program to vaccinate hens against salmonella to deal with frequent food poisoning outbreaks. The results have been breathtaking. In 1997, there were more than 40,700 salmonella poisoning outbreaks in England and Wales. Vaccination programs were begun the following year, and in 2009, there were just 581 salmonella cases. That was a drop of 96% from before the vaccination program. By any standards, the hen vaccination program in that country has been outstandingly successful.

That proves to California salmonella poisoning class action lawyers that such hen vaccination programs could minimize salmonella poisoning risks in the US too. Unfortunately, the federal administration has not been convinced. In July this year, when new egg safety rules went into effect, the vaccination program was nowhere in sight. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there was no strong evidence to prove that vaccinating hens against salmonella could prevent salmonella poisoning, and therefore, there was no need to mandate vaccinations. This is in spite of the ridiculously low cost of vaccinations, less than a penny per hen.

The New York Times claims that this failure to vaccinate hens is at least part of the reason why the Food and Drug Administration is currently in the middle of the largest ever egg recall - currently over half a million eggs. The 550 million eggs came from two Iowa farms, and the resulting salmonellosis food poisoning epidemic has spread nationwide.

The Food and Drug Administration says that its egg safety rules only went into effect on July 9, and that if these rules had gone into effect earlier, then the outbreak could possibly have been prevented. However, critics are not buying that argument. The fact that the safety rules don't include a vaccination program provides a tiny door for salmonellosis to creep through. The FDA's new egg safety rules include testing of eggs, and strict cleanliness standards for hen houses. But without salmonella vaccination, there will continue to be chances that a hen will develop the disease, and will spread the infection to the developing egg.

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