New federal safety rules for egg production are aimed at preventing the type of salmonella outbreak that federal authorities are now investigating, as another company recalled eggs on Sunday night.
Until recently, the authority to inspect facilities where eggs are processed had been the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Food and Drug Administration had previously focused on eggs after they left those facilities. Under new rules starting July 9, the FDA and the USDA began to share responsibility to inspect egg manufacturers.
The new rules, had they been in place before July 9, "could have prevented" the outbreak, Sherri McGarry, emergency coordinator for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a conference call last week. Ms. McGarry said the FDA had not investigated Wright County Egg, the producer at the center of the FDA's investigation, because it didn't have authority to inspect farms until July 9.
Attempts to reach the USDA for comment Sunday were unsuccessful.
"This is sort of the classic example of where the USDA and FDA jurisdiction overlaps," said Bill Marler, a lawyer from Seattle who frequently represents plaintiffs in food-safety cases and who is representing dozens of people who say they got sick from the recalled eggs. "The USDA is chickens and the chicken house, and the FDA is in charge of the eggs when they come out and the feed that comes in."
Cases of salmonella were reported as early as May. In all, more than half a billion eggs from two Iowa producers have been recalled, the most recently on Sunday night when Moark LLC of Fontana, Calif., said it was recalling nearly 300,000 eggs, the Associated Press reported, that came from one of the two Iowa farms.