Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, is asking U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., for specific information concerning the oversight of shell eggs and the implementation of the 2010 Egg Safety Rule.

DeLauro’s interest in the Egg Safety Rule come after the Salmonella outbreak earlier in 2018, which was ultimately traced to shell eggs from a Rose Acre Farms facility in Hyde County, North Carolina. In that case, there were for 45 illnesses and 11 hospitalizations in 10 states, and the outbreak resulted in the recall of more than 206 million eggs. A later outbreak was traced to eggs from Gravel Ridge Farms, which caused 38 illnesses.

“I write to express my concern regarding the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) oversight of shell eggs given two large, nationwide recalls so far this year alone,” wrote DeLauro in a letter to the FDA commissioner. “In 2010 the FDA issued a final Egg Safety Rule for egg producers with 50,000 or more laying hens. Under this rule, egg producers must implement safety standards to control risks associated with pests, rodents, and other hazards; they must purchase chicks and hens from suppliers who control for Salmonella in their flocks; while also satisfying testing, cleaning, and refrigeration provisions to prevent Salmonella."

In her letter, DeLauro pointed out that inspectors at the farm found rodent infestation, ineffective pest controls, and unsanitary conditions.

DeLauro specifically requested answers to questions related to the rule and how enforcement of it can help prevent future Salmonella outbreaks. Those questions are:

  1. How many inspections has FDA conducted since the 2010 regulation went into effect, and what have been the results of these inspections?  What is the nature of the majority of the violations?
  2. To what extent has FDA assessed the effectiveness of the egg safety rule in preventing foodborne illness?
  3. To what extent has FDA collaborated with USDA agencies, including AMS, APHIS, and FSIS in overseeing shell eggs, since 2010 and especially during the 2018 Salmonella outbreaks?
  4. How, if at all, does FDA coordinate with state and local health departments on monitoring safe handling and good manufacturing practices in shell egg processing plants?
  5. With regard to the 2018 outbreaks of Salmonella related to Rose Acre Farms and Gravel Ridge Farms, what challenges has FDA faced in identifying the cause of the outbreak, and what improvements could be taken to strengthen oversight of shell eggs and improve investigations of egg-related outbreaks of foodborne illness?

DeLauro serves on the appropriations subcommittee that is responsible for funding the FDA.