August 22nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Salmonella can infect the eggs we buy in two basic ways:
- Hens with infected ovaries or oviduct tissue contaminate eggs before they’re laid.
- The bacterium can penetrate the shell when a laid egg is exposed to fecal material.
“We used to think that just washing the eggshell, and using Grade A shell eggs, would keep us safe,” says Patrick McDonough, PhD, a professor of microbiology and clinical bacteriologist at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. “However, we know that infected hens do not show clinical signs and that the infection is harbored in the ovaries. When the shell is laid down, it actually covers the yolk, the albumen [egg white] and the infection.”
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enacted new egg safety requirements for producers with 50,000 or more laying hens (about 80% of our egg supply). The rules, which the FDA estimated would reduce egg-related salmonella infections by nearly 60%, mandate:
- Buying chicks and young hens only from suppliers that monitor for salmonella bacteria
- Establishing rodent and pest control, as well as biosecurity measures, to prevent the spread of bacteria throughout the farm by people and equipment
- Conducting testing in the poultry house for salmonella enteritidis, with specific measures for handling infected eggs
- Cleaning and disinfecting poultry houses that have tested positive for salmonella enteritidis
- Refrigerating eggs at 45°F during storage and transportation, no later than 36 hours after the eggs are laid
Many experts say proper precautions could have prevented the Wright County Egg recall, and the New York Times reports that company owner Jack DeCoster “has had run-ins with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, the harassment of workers and the hiring of illegal immigrants.”
Per the Times, DeCoster previously paid a $2 million fine to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And Robert Reich, President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, called DeCoster’s workplace “an agricultural sweatshop.”
“If all works as it is supposed to, we would not have salmonella enteritidis outbreaks,” Dr. McDonough says. “Because we know the risks and how to control, prevent or mitigate as appropriate, the number of outbreaks should be able to be decreased. This is especially important, as we have a growing aging population, and these people are one of the groups especially at risk.”
In the meantime, going organic can help protect you from the dangers posed by factory farms.
Photos: Farm Sanctuary
Read More:How Did Salmonella Contaminate So Many Eggs?
August 21st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
I wish I could tell you that the ongoing egg recall is under control, with all affected egg brands clearly delineated and successfully pulled from market shelves.
Unfortunately, Iowa-based Wright County Egg sold its products to a slew of major grocery chains, retailers and distributors, and additional recalls are likely to be announced. To wit: Hillandale Farms of Iowa yesterday issued a new recall, as did Los Angeles-based Country Eggs, Inc. on Thursday.
Investigative journalist David Kirby, author of Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, noted in Thursday’s Huffington Post that cheap eggs are destined to make us sick. As he writes:
“Salmonella is largely a problem for factory-farmed eggs. Laying hens raised in organic or sustainable conditions are allowed to peck around outdoors for grubs and high-quality feed provided by farmers who are as concerned about animal health and the safety of the food they sell as they are about keeping their costs—and prices—to a minimum. These eggs are less likely to carry disease, and to me at least, they taste a whole lot better.”
Be sure to check out Kirby’s July 15 post, American Factory Farming: You Owe It to the Animals to Watch This (Video). It makes a trip to McDonald’s all the more maddening.
Photo: George Grinsted
Read More:Egg Recall Highlights Benefits of Going Organic
August 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Since May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noticed a 400% increase in Salmonella enteritidis infections.
As I reported earlier this week, the feds have linked the ongoing outbreak to Wright County Egg, an Iowa-based company that has sold potentially contaminated shell eggs to retailers and distributors in eight states: California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Brands subject to recall appear here.
The Associated Press initially reported that 228 million eggs were recalled. The recall has since expanded to 380 million eggs and nine additional states: Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.
At last count, 226 Californians, 28 Coloradans and 7 Minnesotans have been sickened. Additional illnesses are suspected in Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.
The current epidemic is linked to intact and disinfected grade A eggs. Salmonella enteritidis silently infects the ovaries of seemingly healthy hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells form.
California Distributor Recalls Wright Eggs
On Tuesday, Ripon, Calif.-based NuCal Food recalled eggs supplied by Wright County Egg. The eggs, repackaged into 5-dozen retail units, were distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in California and Nevada.
In addition to the original Wright County Egg brands cited, the following products are being recalled:
Bayview Large 5dz
Mountain Dairy Medium 5dz
Nulaid Medium 5dz
Nulaid Medium 5dz
Sun Valley Medium 5dz
How Salmonella Presents
Infected patients usually have fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which begin 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated foods or beverages. The illness lasts approximately 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. If diarrhea is severe, hospitalization may be required.
During the 1980s, illnesses related to contaminated eggs occurred most frequently in the northeastern United States. Now, other parts of the country are equally at risk.
The CDC estimates 2% of U.S. consumers could be exposed to a contaminated egg each year.
Read More:Recall Expands to 380 Million Eggs in 17 States
August 15th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Wright County Egg is recalling specific brands of shell eggs because they may be contaminated with salmonella.
Eggs (cartons of 6, 12 and 18) were distributed in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa under the following brand names:
- Mountain Dairy
- Farm Fresh
- Dutch Farms
Egg carton dates are based on the “Julian calendar,” which reflects the day of the year they were produced (for example, Jan. 1=1, while Dec. 31=365). Affected eggs have a Julian date range of 136 to 225 (see photo, above). The date is stamped at the end of the carton.
Eggs from plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946 are affected. The plant number begins with the letter P, followed by the number (see photo). The Julian date follows the plant number—for example: P-1946 223, as illustrated in the photo.
There have been confirmed salmonella infections related to the eggs, and investigators are working to pinpoint where contamination occurred.
If you’ve purchased these eggs, don’t eat them. Return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the frail or elderly, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, salmonella infection can reach the bloodstream, producing more severe illnesses.
Read More:Eggs Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns
July 23rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
“Healthy” and “breakfast sandwich” tend to be an oxymoron, especially when you review popular fast-food menu items:
- Burger King Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit: 420 calories, 25 g fat, 185 mg cholesterol, 1,360 mg sodium
- Sonic Breakfast Toaster Sandwich with Bacon: 532 calories, 32.4 g fat, 323 mg cholesterol, 1,441 mg sodium
- McDonald’s Egg McMuffin: 300 calories, 12 g fat, 260 mg cholesterol, 820 mg sodium
By comparison, today’s recipe for a Spicy Egg, Turkey Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Muffin contains only 226 calories, 6 g fat, 15 mg cholesterol and 534 mg sodium. The lean protein (17 g), high-fiber carbohydrates and healthy fats—an ideal nutritional trifecta—will leave you feeling satisfied, with fewer cravings throughout the day.
Substitute turkey bacon for its high-fat pork cousin, says exercise physiologist Bob Greene, Oprah Winfrey’s personal trainer and author of several books, including The Best Life Diet Cookbook. He also forsakes egg yolks and cooks with egg whites, which have no fat or cholesterol and half the calories.
The recipe’s prep time is 10 minutes, and all of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store.
Spicy Egg, Turkey Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Muffin
Makes 2 servings
1 cup (8 ounces) egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cayenne hot pepper sauce
1/8 cup (half an ounce) shredded Cheddar cheese
2 slices uncured turkey bacon, cut in half crosswise
2 whole-wheat English muffins, split
- Spray a 10-inch skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium heat.
- Add egg whites, and stir in hot pepper sauce.
- As eggs start to set, use a spatula to lift edges, letting uncooked whites flow to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until whites are set, but still moist.
- Sprinkle shredded cheese atop the egg whites. Fold over the omelet so the cheese melts in the middle.
- Place turkey bacon on a microwave-safe plate, and cover it with a paper towel. Microwave on high for 30 to 40 seconds, or until warmed.
- Toast each English muffin half. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the egg mixture atop two toasted muffins.
- Top each with one piece of cooked turkey bacon and the remaining toasted muffin halves.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Better’n Eggs/ARA
Read More:Build a Healthy, Organic Breakfast Sandwich
July 22nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Research shows that eating a healthy breakfast reduces our risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes, while also facilitating weight loss. We also know that kids who skip their morning meal lack energy, are more irritable, become fatigued and depressed, and fail to perform well in school.
Put the emphasis on protein if you want to maintain muscle mass, curb hunger, reduce abdominal fat, and slow age-related bone and muscle loss, advises Marie Spano, a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist who currently serves as vice president of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Higher-protein diets “are associated with greater bone mass and fewer fractures when calcium intake is adequate,” she told attendees this week at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting. “In addition, replacing carbohydrates with protein can prevent obesity and obesity-relted conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.”
As we grow older, the consequences of protein deficiency become more apparent. We all know seniors who have developed conditions like osteoarthritis and sarcopenia (degenerative loss of muscle mass). Eating a protein-rich diet will create a healthier population of older (and more agile) adults, which simultaneously lowers healthcare costs.
Try these five high-protein, egg-based recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner:
- Asparagus, Red Pepper and Potato Frittata (made with egg whites)
- Southwestern Scramble
- Sesame-Ginger Frittata with Broccoli and Shrimp (made with egg whites)
- Egg and Vegetable Salad Sandwich
- Tomato-Feta Frittata
Read More:Make Your Organic Breakfast a High-Priority, High-Protein Meal
June 18th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Treat Dad to a home-cooked Father’s Day brunch on Sunday.
Today’s frittata recipe will awaken everyone’s taste buds, with the richness of eggs and cheese plus the added kick of picante sauce.
Prep time is 20 minutes, bake time is 40 minutes, and all of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store.
Makes 6 servings (1 wedge each)
1/2 cup water
1 cup cooked regular long-grain white rice (see tip, below)
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup picante sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
3 Italian plum tomatoes, sliced
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat greased, oven-safe, 10-inch skillet in oven for 5 minutes.
- Beat eggs and water in large bowl with a fork or whisk. Stir in rice, feta cheese, Cheddar cheese, picante sauce, cilantro and oregano.
- Pour egg mixture into skillet. Arrange tomato slices on egg mixture.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until eggs are set. Cut frittata into 6 wedges.
Tip: You can use any type of cooked (unseasoned) rice in this recipe. It’s a great way to use up leftovers.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Pace Foods
Read More:Tomato-Feta Frittata
May 27th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Grocery giant Safeway has announced it will increase sales of cage-free eggs—from 6% to 12%—over the next 2 years.
The decision follows a study published last month in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, which reveals that California’s Proposition 2—legislation passed in 2008 that outlaws cages for hen-laying eggs by January 2015—had “a significant effect on consumer preferences for eggs, increasing demand for cage-free and organic eggs by 180% and 20%, respectively.”
The study shows that “the very act of putting an issue like Prop 2 on the ballot affects consumers’ preferences—likely because consumers are largely unaware of, and have incorrect beliefs about, modern agricultural practices,” concludes author Jayson L. Lusk, PhD, a professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Lusk found that, despite higher prices, demand for cage-free and organic eggs increased 180% and 20%, respectively, in response to news stories about Prop. 2, even as overall egg demand remained the same.
“California egg producers have an opportunity to thrive by meeting this demand and abandoning cruel cages,” says Jennifer Fearing, who managed the YES! on Prop 2 campaign for the Humane Society of the United States.
Safeway’s 1,712 North American stores include the Vons, Pavilions, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Carrs and Randalls grocery chains.
Read More:Safeway Responds to Demand for Cage-Free, Organic Eggs
May 23rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
At Thursday’s meeting of McDonald’s shareholders, Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ factory farming campaign, urged the fast food chain to decrease its use of eggs from caged hens.
Most competitors, including Burger King, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr. and Sonic, have gone cage-free, but egg products sold by U.S. McDonald’s restaurants come from hens confined to battery cages—enclosures so small that birds cannot spread their wings or move freely.
In contrast, cage-free hens have 200% to 300% more space per bird, the Humane Society notes.
McDonald’s stores in the UK have already gone the cage-free route, and franchises throughout the European Union will follow suit this year.
To jumpstart a transition in the United States, the Humane Society specifically proposed that the chain, with 13,000+ American locations, commit to procuring 5% of its eggs from cage-free suppliers by next January. This meant Ronald McDonald could continue to buy 95% of his eggs from regular suppliers.
But the board urged shareholders to vote against the resolution, arguing it “would not enhance our existing policies and practices regarding the welfare of egg-laying hens and is not in the best interests of shareholders.” (Translation: McD’s makes less money, as a cage-free egg costs about 14 cents more, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
The board added: “As we have examined this issue over the years, we have determined that there is no agreement in the global scientific community about how to balance the advantages and disadvantages of laying-hen housing systems.”
Not so fast.
Numerous studies indicate cage-free hens contribute to a safer food supply, and reputable independent research organizations like the Pew Commission have long urged agribusiness to phase out inhumane production practices.
“McDonald’s could reduce the suffering of the hens in its supply chain by starting to phase in cage-free eggs in the U.S.,” Shapiro says. “Consumer trends, legislative activities, McDonald’s competitors and even many McDonald’s operations outside the U.S. all favor cage-free egg production.”
Read More:McDonald’s Board Rejects Cage-Free Eggs
April 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
I love a well-prepared omelet, but nothing beats a frittata when cooking for a small crowd.
Usually cooked on the stovetop, using just one skillet, frittatas are similar to quiches, but without the calorie-packed crust. To further reduce calories, you can substitute egg whites for whole eggs.
Today’s recipe is ideal for Easter brunch. Prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 16 to 18 minutes, and all of the ingredients should be available at your local natural and organic food store.
Asparagus, Red Pepper and Potato Frittata
Makes 6 servings
2 cups (16 ounces) egg whites
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups refrigerated (uncooked) hash brown potatoes
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Slowly stir together egg whites and ricotta cheese in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat oil on medium-high in 10-inch skillet.
- Gently stir potatoes, asparagus, red pepper and mushrooms in large bowl.
- Add potato mixture to skillet. Cook 5 to 6 minutes.
- Flip potato mixture. Pour egg-white mixture evenly over potatoes. Cover and cook without stirring for 10 to 12 minutes, or until eggs are set. Remove from heat.
- Place serving platter or cutting board over top of skillet. Carefully invert frittata onto platter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- To serve, cut into pie-like slices.
Recipe and photo courtesy of AllWhites/ARA
Read More:Asparagus, Red Pepper and Potato Frittata