HuffPo FAIL boat: Salmonella edition


News: Salmonella outbreak in eggs, Massive recalls


News: lol.

But thats not the only reason I bring this up. SciBlogs 'special' friend, HuffPo, scavenged an article from AP, which noted that one of the reasons why this salmonella-in-eggs recall is so epic, is because the US government doesnt require hens be vaccinated against salmonella. I thought this was neat info, and it turns out the eggs I normally buy do vaccinate their hens ($2.35 a dozen -0.35 coupon, -0.35 double coupon at the grocery store, w00t!).

The reaction was predictable, but still funny:

All my life I've heard, "Don't eat raw eggs; they might have salmonella in them." Suddenly it's an issue requiring vaccination of the hens? If you can get eggs from free range hens, do so. They'll have omega 3's in them and taste so much better than eggs from sick chickens in factory farms. Sure, let's clean up the factory farms, but let's not make rules on vaccinating hens that will drive the little family farmers out of business.

I've learned to not trust government figures when it comes to vaccines.

Does it surprise anyone that corporate factory farms have been allowed to poison our food supply? Asking a corporation to voluntarily police themselves is about as effective as asking them to voluntarily pay higher taxes. When the only important factor is the bottom line, human health doesn't play much of a role in corporate decisions.

When you have a monopoly on the food supply, you can put out whatever low-quality toxic garbage you want and call it food. Most people are still going to consume it because they either don't know any better or have limited alternatives. far as myself is concerned.....I have 9 chickens in my backyard that give me wonderful organic eggs everyday. My concern isn't for myself, its for everyone else eating eggs and meat full of chemicals and growth hormones. The logical step is not Prolonging the abuse, the logical step is to force these egg manufacturers to abide by "Common Sense" rules and shut down the ones who don't. The guy that started this is a scumball and should lose his business for endangering human life for profit.

The hens were infected via their feed. No one was purposefully doing anything wrong. No one wasnt following the rules for profit. If your grandma had bought this feed and fed it to her hens, the same thing would have happened. Sometimes bad shit, salmonella induced or otherwise, just happens.

And theres THIS ASSHOLE, who brings his own special kind of FAIL to HuffPo by blogging for 'them' (like how HSUS raised money for 'Michael Vicks pits' or 'pets of Katrina'). Wayne Pacelle, I dont care what you think about anything. Youre a giant douche and I hope you die in a fire started by one of your Animal Liberation Front friends:

The lifelong extreme confinement of laying hens in tiny cages is not just inhumane, it's been linked to human disease. Eggs from caged birds have been found to be significantly more likely to pose a Salmonella threat than cage-free eggs. You can see even more of the evidence at our site

According to this douche and HuffPo commentors, cage-free, free-range, organic hens are better. Douche even has SCIENCE to back up his claims!

Except Sir Douche uses science the way Creationists use science. Cherry picking information to fit ones agenda. What does an actual microbiologist think about this?

Are organic eggs less likely to carry salmonella? What about those sold on farm stands?
"I've not seen any evidence suggesting that these eggs are any safer," says Martin Wiedmann, an associate professor of food microbiology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Although many of us buy specialty eggs for ethical reasons, some new buyers may be having a "gut-level reaction" to news that the contaminated eggs came from giant industrial farms, he says; it's akin to assuming that cars are a safer mode of transport than planes whenever we hear about a jetliner crash. No doubt, hens raised on organic farms live more enjoyable lives--they aren't confined to cages and are free to wander--but studies haven't shown that well-treated hens are any less likely to carry and transmit salmonella to the eggs they lay. In fact, some studies indicate that they may be more likely to be exposed to the bacteria, often found in dust on the henhouse floor, than hens confined to battery cages, which don't touch the ground. What's more, a recent study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture found that eggs from "cage-free" hens were more likely to contain chemical contaminants, probably from the soil in fields where the hens were allowed to graze.

If you think 'cage-free'/'free-range'/'organic' hens cant be infected with salmonella because they are in harmony with The Earth Goddess, then you are lulled into a false sense of security of what behaviors are actually 'safe'. Eating raw cookie dough, home-made salad dressings, undercooked eggs for breakfast, drinking cocktails that include raw eggs-- those behaviors are not magically 'safe' because you bought eggs from hens that got to sit in bean-bag chairs and watch Judge Judy all day, instead of regular store brand eggs.

Scapegoating might make you feel better mentally, but it doesnt actually do any good in reality.

Just cook your goddamn eggs.


More like this

Fuck, I HATE chemicals in my eggs. Goddamn chemicals are poisonous and toxic and bad for you and, whatever. And hormones are even worse! These people are goddamn criminals for putting chemicals and hormones and other shit in our eggs.

OR! if you really need raw eggs for something (for instance, I am not sure how to make good eggnog without raw eggs), simply buy irradiated eggs. They are a little more expensive, and still not 100% foolproof, but are a safer alternative if you require raw eggs.

Of course, radiation is bad, m'kay. So I don't suppose that irradiated eggs are much comfort to the people who are most vocal.

Rob, hells yeah! I'm so with you. I found out most eggs are fucking full of albumin and glycoproteins and goddamn dihydrogen monoxide and shit, right? It bloody makes me want to peristaltize a god damn bolus of the stuff.

Fuckin' chemicals.

The good news is that eggs got really cheap just about the time I needed to buy some cuz I was out.

I'm also irritated by the massive coverage of the outbreak because so far there are 1,500 additional cases of Salmonella potentially related to these eggs (beyond the typical 900 cases per year (that's how they found out the eggs were contaminated)) and NO DEATHS. An average of 23,000 people die because not enough Americans get flu shots every year, where's the outrage over that?

By justawriter (not verified) on 27 Aug 2010 #permalink

The vaccines work best with invasive strains of Salmonella and not at all with some strains, so requiring vaccination of laying hens would not solve the general problem of Salmonella in eggs. There are >2500 serotypes of Salmonella.

The usual estimate of Salmonella-positive eggs is about 1 or 2 per 10,000 eggs, and from positive flocks it goes up to maybe 4 or 5 eggs per 10,000, so contamination rates in the eggs are usually very low. It is impossible to be precise when such huge numbers of eggs have to be sampled to get an estimate. The authorities are looking for Salmonella in environmental and farm samples, but I have not read of any isolations from the eggs themselves.

Salmonella bacteria have been isolated from snakes, frogs, insects, birds, mammals, and just about every terrestrial animal with a gastrointestinal tract. Free-range chickens are exposed to anything that passes by.

By The EggMan (not verified) on 27 Aug 2010 #permalink

This has to be one of the funniest posts I've read on sciblogs. Well played... I even got my parents laughing with this post.

So being pro science and logic means automatically blogging as a conservative douche castigating those who fight against large scale industrial agriculture that mostly sustains the rich but despoils the environment? Using the recall was just a means to get more people to listen and understand the profit motive shit that goes on in large scale animal farming. I'm not anti-vaccination either.

Trying to poopoo it because some of the animal-rights extremists attack your holy lab animal use/experiments is apples and oranges and equally unethical. I suppose because you see animals in dinky cages for your lab work then farmers doing the same ain't no thing, or sweat off your nose. Thousands of questionable visa status migrants getting abused and raped just for your breakfast eggs to be sorted and put in a carton. The samonella recall helped bring those issues it to larger light. Are colleges and science labs guilty of that too for animal research?

I'm from Iowa, understand the levels of farming scale know first hand for years the DeCoster chicken protein manufacturing industrial complex's decades of constant DNR transgressions in the news and being sued and fined, while raking in millions of dollars. The county and towns are his plantation peasant slaves who won't complain just like the Postville kosher slaughter house debacle. Farming in Iowa and stuff that gets to your plate isn't mom&pop, it's Mr&Mrs Ag Tycoon millionaires. Lining their pockets with taxpayer supported ag subsidy payments paying off officials.

Well, when one plane goes down you do end up with more dead than one car.
I do wonder about the likelihood of disease *spread* with factory farms. Not particularly with Salmonella, but if a particularly nasty contagious zoonotic arose on a small organic farm, a few dozen people- tops- are exposed. If a ginormous factory farm goes bad, it's like dropping a bomb of infectious disease on hundreds of people in dozens of cities at once. Not that I'd ever think about bioterror, or anything...

Megan: No, but being pro-science does mean castigating liars. For example, if one were to dismiss everything ERV wrote by stating that she was attacking animal rights activists because they go after scientific research, that person would be a liar. Oh wait, I think you just might have some familiarity with this sort of thing yourself...

By Stephen Bahl (not verified) on 27 Aug 2010 #permalink

I misread the first comment as, "I hate chemtrails in my eggs"... lulz

By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Aug 2010 #permalink

Or people could, y'know, cook their eggs PROPERLY.
If I see one more plate of scrambled eggs in a cafe that's barely half-cooked, I am calling a health inspector on them.
Salmonella is one of a few things you can pick up from undercooked eggs, and ALL of them can kill you.
And bars should be using irradiated eggs for any raw-egg cocktails. Doing otherwise is just plain irresponsible. (Granted, alcohol can kill a lot of things, but the risk isn't worth losing your job or business over.)

Poulty, meat, fish...same thing. COOK IT PROPERLY and you won't get sick. The number of times I have heard of people picking up E.coli or salmonella from undercooked chicken is ridiculous. No meats are safe to eat raw - all of them have to be cooked, ideally the whole way through.
(You *can* get away with just getting the center of the cut to about 60-70 degrees Celsius with red meat and some game birds, but it's much less risky to cook it the whole way through.)

I know raw meat and raw fish are used in some dishes, but please, don't make sashimi or steak tartare at home. You can make yourself very ill if any bacteria at all gets into the meat. Leave the raw meat and raw fish dishes to the restaurants, and save yourself the illness.

Thousands of questionable visa status migrants getting abused and raped just for your breakfast eggs to be sorted and put in a carton.

The what ?

Thousands of questionable visa status migrants getting abused and raped just for your breakfast eggs to be sorted and put in a carton.

The what ?

That was the part that persuaded me over to Megans side! The wisdom and insight of carefully crafted arguments like that is a sure sign of a winner!

End Ovogallian Gender Enslavement now!

Power to the poultry!

By Prometheus (not verified) on 28 Aug 2010 #permalink

I love my over easy eggs. I love my rare beef. How big of a risk are these? I won't bother with eggs if I can't have runny yolks. I have never seen irradiated eggs in the stores that I frequent.

megan-- So, your comment perfectly illustrated my point. The 'outcry' over salmonella in eggs has nothing to do with science, but politics. What you typed is only superficially related to this post. I dont care if you want to let loose a tangentially-related-rant in a comment, but at least acknowledge that.

martha-- LOL gross :P Thats one of the reasons I dont eat meat. Its supposed to be 'better' rare or whatever, but that TOTALLY GROSSES ME OUT, LOL! As far as risk goes, salmonella in eggs has dropped drastically since some new guidelines a few decades ago on washing eggs. If you are an otherwise healthy person, even if you happen to get salmonella from undercooked eggs, youre probably going to feel like shit (lol) for a while, but youll be okay. Probably. But you shouldnt give undercooked eggs to little kids or elderly or sick people, etc.

But understand that once you get old (like, old), you do need to stop that. Salmonella in the elderly really is bad news.

And LOL @ the jokes in this thread. Awesome!

The closest i get to undercooked anything are eggs over medium. (I know, i know, but the yolks on toast...teh ymz0r!)

My wife cringes when i get asked, anywhere, how I want my meat cooked...


"well done?"

"well, yes. but when i ask for well-done, some well-meaning chef always thinks i don't know what i'm talking about and i get something that is not in fact, well-done. It is perfectly possible to cook meat properly without drying it out. I do this all the time. I want it burnt. Carbonized bits on the outside. Black even. the inside should have no pink. none. not a hint, not a sniff. I don't want to know this was ever alive."

(usually smiling at this point) "I'll make sure they know that sir."

"thanks! you do that, your tip gets bigger"

My wife thinks i'm eating cardboard. I think she's eating a big slab of bacteria. I can live with cardboard far longer than she can with bacteria.


Properly made poached eggs are boiled in water with vinegar.

If you are that worried, order the Eggs Benedict.

Classic Hollandaise requires fresh lemon juice and Canadian bacon is a ph of about 3.

Salmonella hates anything under 4.

165 is overkill, if you crank the ph down in the prep you also crank down the temp requirement.

Rare steaks are a problem unless you marinate but even tartare is a kind of ceviche and salmonella in beef is rare (usually some weird isolated cross contamination).

Pull out any professional cook book (Larousse not Rachel Ray) and you will find that for every classic recipe for what you might regard as undercooked, there is a compensatory chemical and or sanitizing prep technique.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 28 Aug 2010 #permalink

Given what free-range chickens will eat (I'm thinking frogs, rodents, small birds, in fact anything they can catch and kill), I'd guess they're at higher risk of contamination than those that only get to eat food out of feedsacks.

Weighing in on the cooking debate, I personally hate the taste of rare/raw meat (to the point of retching if I accidentally bite into an underdone sausage), and I refuse to touch raw eggs at all (although I like runny yolks in a fry-up). IIRC, don't you have much higher rates of toxoplasmosis in cultures where you eat underdone meat (especially France and the US) than in civilised places where it's cooked through?

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 28 Aug 2010 #permalink
Thousands of questionable visa status migrants getting abused and raped just for your breakfast eggs to be sorted and put in a carton.

The what ?

You didn't know most commercial egg cartons are recycled 40-lb boxes of rape? The previous contents have to go somewhere, you know.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 28 Aug 2010 #permalink

becca: In both your plane and farm comparisons, you're making impermissible substitutions. You can't compare one plane crash to one car crash because the passengers on the plane, if they drove instead, would be driving several hundred cars, not just one, and that's the risk you have to evaluate.

Similarly, you have to look at how many cases of foodborne illness would originate from all the small, local, sustainable organic farms needed to produce as many eggs as the ginormous for-profit factory farm does, not just how many would originate from one (the latter would be the same as the factory farm's corporate overlords taking their farm's figure and dividing it by a couple hundred).

Stripey cat,

Free ranging poultry, goats and cows eat snails and raw milk and eggs can spread encephalitis.

Toxoplasmosis is everywhere and particularly ubiquitous in cities because of cats and pigeons.

Professional urban kitchens have started to put out sterilizing matts to keep pigeon poop out because toxoplasmosis is deadly to people who are HIV+.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

I care about this, but I'm willing to "play the odds" once in a while. I'm a Hollandaise sauce addict!
(die nasty cheese sauce! Die powdered Hollandaise!)

Megan. Wait...what? Forget Teh Science, try some punctuation. Questionable visa..WTF? Please, in future, no matter how deeply you feel about a subject, don't post whilst intoxicated. Please.

Oh, and ERV, nice little hat-tip from PZ huh?

By Jacques Hughes (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

All I know is when I was growing up eating raw cookie dough was routine when visiting grandma's.

But I guess I'll believe your biologist, because he is a wizzard of smart, and grandma must of tricked me.

By William Wallace (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

Of course, radiation is bad, m'kay. So I don't suppose that irradiated eggs are much comfort to the people who are most vocal.

I wouldn't be so against irradiation of beef or bathing eggs in chlorine or whatever if it weren't for the fact that it is a band-aid to cover the fact that agricultural industrialization has created shit covered meat and sick chickens. It would probably be acceptable if the line was "Our cattle don't live in pens 6" deep in their own shit, and our meat packers know what they're doing, but we're irradiating as an extra insurance policy for that 1 in 10,000 chance that e. coli gets on your steak."

Instead, the trend is to irradiate the shit on your steak to render it safer.

I went to a chicken farm recently and bought some 6 week old chickens. They were huge. Thanks be to science, we get freaks of nature.

You might like to eat longer bananas that were crossed with snake genes, but I'll pass.

Too bad we don't have honest labeling requirements so that you folks can eat your Frankenstein food, and others can pass.

By William Wallace (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

Anyone who eats beef cooked well-done is a heathen and not in a good way. I like cage free eggs because they are SO much tastier. Nothing like a soft boiled egg and toast.

Prometheus is right. People don't know many of the techniques to make food safe. They are much too dependent on processing companies to prep their food for them.

By beardedbeard (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

"Eating raw cookie dough" as an exposure to raw egg. Damn! I love raw cookie dough - I have ever since eating it while my mother baked. I never though of it as an uncooked egg exposure, but of course you're right. Damn!

Many years ago (1988) I was visiting the U.K. when the minister for agriculture announced (incorrectly) that "most British eggs have salmonella" - it made sales of eggs plummet, and I consistently refused eggs for the whole visit (not really believing her, but I couldn't persuade my stomach).

I guess I was lucky as a kid, we had steak tartar regularly, raw ground beef with a raw egg yolk on top. From eggs that weren't stored chilled. But then, that country didn't have Tyson preventing the elimination of salmonella from the chicken population. It's funny when I see the anti-vax / organic crowd play into the arms of "Big Food" who wants to save the money for the immunizations.

There are about a dozen USDA inspections down the line before the egg hits the pan.

There really aren't many inspection controls for your local small farmer which is why the salmonella outbreaks usually occur there under normal circumstances.

In this instance it was a ginormous operation attempting vertical integration and being exempt from a step in the process (mixing its own feed)just like small farmers are.

The result was the same, it just happened on a huge scale.

Granny's chickens start picking bugs (to her delight) off of the rose bushes and tomatoes.

But Granny has put garden grade bone meal on the bushes and now everybody has salmonella from Granny's homemade cookie dough.

Somebody at EggCorp Plant #1 didn't realize you have to heat treat to 165 degrees the bone meal in the chicken feed calculation before it is shipped to EggCorp Plant #2.

There is no distinction in virtue and one way is not better than the other.

People are stupid and lazy so USDA will now test the feed portion of any vertical integration large scale facility for salmonella because the risk rises with the scale. They should not have exempted them in the first place except the USDA is operated by people too (stupid and lazy).

By Prometheus (not verified) on 30 Aug 2010 #permalink

I'm having problems following this link. DNS issues, perhaps?

Also too, I thought I'd mention that people in third-world countries never catch salmonella or other horrible food-borne diseases that we North Americans get, because their food is all-natural, without chemicals, preservatives, and vaccines. Just ask Greg Laden, he'll tell you!

But the thing I don't understand is, if the food is the same as it was 30 years ago, why did my mom routinely cook the stuffing *inside* the bird (any bird: chicken, duck, turkey, goose) back then, with none of us getting sick... and why do they now recommend that no one does this -- that everyone cook the stuffing in a separate dish? I ate raw cookie dough as a kid whenever we made cookies (my mom would let me lick the beaters), and I never got sick. (Actually, I still eat raw cookie dough... home made and store bought, which all is labeled "COOKIE DOUGH SHOULD NOT BE CONSUMED RAW"... and I've never gotten sick, although if I did, I would not sue anyone, since it would be my own fault.)

I would really like to know the answer to these questions: is it that the food itself is more disease-ridden now than it was then (due to ultra-large scale agribusiness factory-style farming, husbandry, or slaughtering -- or both), or is it that people are more stupid and incapable of proper cooking?

FWIW I ate steak tartare when I was a kid and teen because my grandmother (born in Germany) made the most *heavenly* steak tartare, only from ground chuck, which she bought as chuck and then asked the butcher to grind. I stopped after the whole BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) thing broke out, although I still eat my meat rare or medium. And I've eaten raw clams and oysters on the half-shell, though I prefer baked clams and oyster stew.

Most of the time, though, I don't eat much meat at all (mainly because I'm cheap, and meat is expensive).

Also: wouldn't eating raw, rare, or medium-cooked red meat/eggs on occasion (not daily) simply stimulate one's immune system to fight off the most common pathogens found in those foods? Or is the bacterial load simply unacceptable these days? And, again, why was it more acceptable in the past to cook/eat rare or underdone foods, with few or no warnings against it? Is it because the food was "cleaner" then, because medicine/science didn't know the extent of the risk, or because transportation/storage/cooking techniques were better? I really would like to know.

By voltairine (not verified) on 01 Sep 2010 #permalink

I still eat raw eggs, raw steak, and make sashimi at home. I've made my own mayonnaise and I routinely lick the bowl after baking. If you know the risks and know how to handle food safely you are not really in much danger. The only thing that concerns me is toxoplasmosis.

I have had salmonella once, from a factory-farmed egg sandwich I bought on a building site. Badly stored, prepared or handled food is always going to be a risk.

By embertine (not verified) on 01 Sep 2010 #permalink


There's more than one thing going on here. Yes, some of the food is dirtier than it was--policies of cutting inspections and loosening regulation do, in fact, achieve what they're meant to, namely letting companies poison their customers for profit.

Also, our risk tolerance has changed. Some of that is because there are new shapes of risk out there: you don't worry about how something will affect immunocompromised people if you don't have a significant number of them in your population. There are more people with transplants than there used to be. There are people living with HIV. I suspect another factor is that we now believe that we can live long, healthy lives. We don't expect our friends and relatives to die suddenly because of infections.

As far as I know, the only thing that eating a food with a high bacterial load might do is teach your immune system to fight those specific bacteria. There isn't a generic strengthening of the immune system if you're healthy to start with. And if you're not, try getting enough sleep, a reasonably healthy, balanced diet, and some exercise, not seeking out bacterially infected anything.

That said, I do eat sushi and sashimi and occasionally beef tartare and other raw meats. I make a chocolate mousse with raw eggs, occasionally. But I know there's a risk there; I voluntarily ride in automobiles, too.