U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, along with Chairman Henry Waxman, sent letters today to Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa regarding the recent recall of eggs as a result of salmonella contamination.
In the letters, Stupak and Waxman requested documents and information relating to the recent recall of more than half a billion eggs by the two companies, including when the companies first became aware of the salmonella contamination and when they first notified government officials of the issue. Stupak and Waxman also requested company inspection records, internal protocols for product monitoring, all documents relating to safety practices of egg production, and all communications among the companies' personnel regarding possible salmonella contamination.
"The recent recall of potentially hazardous eggs is yet another example of how our nation's food safety system is broken," Stupak said. "It is important that we discover exactly what happened to cause this recall so we can move swiftly to stop possible further contaminations in our food supply."
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Stupak has held 11 food safety hearings over the past four years examining the failure of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the food industry to protect the nation's food supply. The subcommittee examined breakdowns in the system highlighted by E. coli in peanut butter, meat and fresh greens as well as the 2008 high-profile outbreak of salmonella linked first to tomatoes and later traced to jalapeno peppers.
Findings of the investigation and related hearings led Stupak and fellow Energy and Commerce Committee members John Dingell (D-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to craft H.R. 2749, the Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009. H.R. 2749 would establish a national food tracing system, making it easier for the FDA to respond to outbreaks of food borne illness. The bill would provide the FDA with subpoena power, mandatory recall authority and require country of origin labeling on food. The bill overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2009 in a bipartisan vote. Despite strong support among many industry groups and the FDA, the Senate has failed to act on food safety legislation.
"Had strong reforms like those in H.R. 2749 already been in place, the FDA would have had the authority to issue a mandatory recall and take aggressive steps to stop the spread of these dangerous eggs," Stupak said. "The Senate already has countless examples and studies from the past few years as to why we need food safety reform but this egg recall gives them yet one more. As we investigate the egg recall I hope members of the Senate will realize how important the safety of our food supply is and pass our food safety legislation when they return in September."