August 23/Washington/Associated Press Financial Wire -- FDA chief Margaret Hamburg, beset with an egg-and-salmonella food safety challenge, said the agency must move from a reactive to preventive enforcement strategy.
Giving a series of network interviews in the wake of some 1,300 salmonella cases from tainted eggs, Hamburg said the FDA is taking the issue "very, very seriously." At the same time, she said Congress should pass pending legislation that would provide her agency with greater enforcement power, including new authority over imported food.
"We need better abilities and authorities to put in place these preventive controls and hold companies accountable," Hamburg said as she discussed the salmonella poisoning outbreak and the recall of roughly a half-billion eggs from two Iowa egg distributors.
She also had some practical advice for consumers: Reject over-easy eggs. She said that as federal investigators continue their work with the companies involved, consumers should strictly avoid "runny egg yolks for mopping up with toast."
The number of illnesses, which can be life-threatening, especially to those with weakened immune systems, is expected to increase. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever eight to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product.
The salmonella outbreak has raised questions about federal inspections of egg farms. The FDA oversees inspections of shell eggs, while the Agriculture Department is in charge of inspecting other egg products.
From the August 30, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition