Poisoning the system
- September 24, 2010 10:41 AM |
- By Kevin Yarr
The gigantic egg recall in the United States raises interesting questions about both public policy and personal choice.
Half a billion eggs were recalled in the U.S. in August, but not before about 1,300 people became sick with salmonella.
Food safety experts rang alarm bells, saying uncooked eggs should be treated like uncooked chicken and absolutely avoided. It’s all very well to stay away from uncooked chicken, but cutting out uncooked eggs means the end of hollandaise sauce, sunny side up eggs, lemon meringue pie, eggs boiled for less than 15 minutes.
That’s just a quick list. To my mind, it’s pretty close to a culinary disaster.
How did we get here? Salmonella in eggs has been around for decades, but recalls of hundreds of millions of eggs have not. That comes from the increasing concentration of food production into the hands of fewer people.
In a story this week, The New York Times traced this year’s egg recall back to one man. They connect him to another nasty salmonella outbreak in 1987, and outline his efforts to avoid government regulation in the interim.
From a public policy point of view there is an interesting debate here. If egg production is small scale with many producers, is there an effective way to regulate it? Do you end up with regular, small-scale outbreaks?
If it is large scale, with few producers, does inevitable human frailty lead to occasional massive outbreaks? Which of those two options do we choose?
From a personal perspective, how do we deal with this reality? Food safety experts seem to favour, “Don’t worry about it. Just cook your eggs.” But I don’t think I’m ready to give up eggs benedict and lemon meringue pie.
My approach is trust in my producer. I go to the local farmers market and buy eggs from people I know. It could be that some day I will come to regret that choice, but I’m hoping that years of sunny side up eggs and béchamel sauce will make up for it.
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