President Clinton proposed new egg safety procedures to reduce the risk of salmonella, reminding Americans to be careful in handling raw eggs as they prepare meals this holiday season. "There's really no such thing as 'too safe,' " he said today.
In his weekly radio address, Clinton noted that his Council on Food Safety had identified eggs as a food that carries special risks for children, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. He said about 300,000 people fall ill each year from salmonella bacteria borne on 3.3 million eggs.
"When infected eggs still make it from the farm to the table, we know we have more work to do," Clinton said.
In a statement, the United Egg Producers said the industry has taken several steps in recent years to reduce contamination problems, including a voluntary quality assurance program and education on the proper ways to handle and cook eggs.
Although the industry would support many of the new initiatives, United Egg Producers President Al Pope said warning language proposed for egg cartons is "too alarmist."
"We feel strongly that any safe-handling label should keep the small risk in perspective," said Jill Snowdon, director of food safety for the Egg Nutrition Center. "The most important thing for consumers to know is that if they keep eggs refrigerated and cook them thoroughly, they will eliminate any potential health risk."
Clinton proposed new federal rules that would require egg farmers to adhere to strict sanitation practices, test for salmonella bacteria and divert infected eggs away from market. Those who process and package eggs would take a "kill step" to eliminate bacteria in infected eggs, using new technology such as "in-shell pasteurization."
"Food safety is part of our citizens' basic contract with the government," Clinton said. "Any food that fails to meet clear and strict standards for safety should not make it to the marketplace."