December 30th, 2010
03:03 PM ET
Editor’s note: This week, The Chart is taking a closer look at the most important health stories of 2010. Each day, we'll feature buzzwords and topics that came to the forefront over the past year.
According to an old adage, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for egg eaters across the United States, breakfast briefly became potentially deadly.
In August, an outbreak of salmonella poisoning spurred a recall of more than 500 million eggs from producers across the country, and was eventually traced back to two sources - Wright County Egg Co. of Galt, Iowa, and Hillandale Farms of New Hampton, Iowa. Inspection reports released by the Food and Drug Administration indicated that neither company adhered to its salmonella prevention plans.
Further FDA investigations revealed conditions termed "stomach-churning" by food safety advocates at The Center for Science in the Public Interest. They included chicken manure in piles up to 8 feet high at Wright County and liquid manure leaking into a chicken house at Hillandale.
Wright County has recently been cleared to ship shell eggs from several henhouses again, after having cleaned and disinfected the on-site feed mill and taken measures to alleviate a rodent problem. Hillandale has also undergone extensive salmonella testing and been found free of contaminants.
Still, eaters are left with an awful lot to cry foul about. An estimated 1,600 people were sickened by the eggs, and food contamination would later stretch far beyond breakfast.
In August, 8,500 pounds of ground beef were recalled after three people were sickened by E.coli-contaminated beef from Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. In September, Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, was found in packaged crab meat from Hallmark Fisheries in Charleston, Oregon. In October, four deaths were tied to Listeriosis contamination from chopped celery processed at the Sangar Produce and Processing plant in Texas. November saw a recall of 2,600 pounds of turkey breast on fears of listeria contamination. And just in time for the holidays, there were fears of salmonella contamination in nutmeg as well as parsley and cilantro.
Recently released CDC data indicates that one of six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick from food-borne diseases each year, while 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Still, despite the ongoing threat to public health, the Food and Drug Administration remained legally unable to enact mandatory recalls of potentially contaminated food.
This might soon change, however, with the passage of the long-stalled Food Safety Modernization Act. The legislation, which Congress passed just before Christmas, will allow for greater governmental regulation of the U.S. food system, including recall authority, a food-tracing system and company-written food safety plans that are accessible by the government in case of emergency.
But keep washing those eggshells and make sure the yolks are cooked to 160 degrees Farenheit. Your food safety is in your own (very well-scrubbed) hands.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.