Maine Chapter of the New England Brown Egg Council Releases Statement on Maine Egg Safety

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The following is a statement from William Bell, Executive Director of the Maine Chapter of the New England Brown Egg Council.

Maine is home to one of the best egg safety programs in the country.

The following is a statement from William Bell, Executive Director of the Maine Chapter of the New England Brown Egg Council.

“'Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh' is a well-known phrase in New England. Consumers can also be confident that their New England brown eggs are safe.

Most of New England’s brown eggs are produced in Maine and as the Food and Drug Administration embarks on nationwide inspections of egg farms and Congress looks to learn more about the situation that occurred in Iowa, consumers deserve to know what has been happening on Maine’s egg farms. Not a single brown egg has been associated with the egg recall in the news. But the Maine Chapter of the Brown Egg Council – which does not include DeCoster Egg Farm – acknowledges and regrets the recent egg recall and supports measures to keep food safe. We support the Food Safety Bill and look forward to being partners with the FDA by promptly implementing recommendations that will make our programs even stronger.

Maine is home to one of the best egg safety programs in the country, and the only state program that is mandatory. The centerpiece of our egg safety is the Maine SE Risk Reduction and Surveillance Program for Commercial Egg-Type Flocks. This program, which surpasses even the new regulations enacted by the FDA in July, requires constant testing of flocks, thorough testing and cleaning of hen houses, and vaccination of all hens. Together, New England states produce over two billion (that’s billion, with a B!) eggs each year.

Consumers have every right to know more about where their food comes from, that it is fresh, and that it is safe. How do you know that your eggs from Maine are safe? Young laying hens arrive at Maine farms already certified SE free. Nevertheless, the young birds are all vaccinated for salmonella enteritidis (SE), the strain which causes salmonella sickness in humans. Maine is the only state in the country with such state-mandated vaccination, which is increasingly proven to be highly effective, and which is more than what the FDA requires. The birds are placed in hen houses that have been completely cleaned following the previous flock’s departure. In Maine, this entails 10 days of keeping the hen house empty while workers clean and prepare for the next flock and the State can assure that the facility is SE free. Maine also inspects conditions on farms every month, and has a mandatory meeting of farm managers to discuss how further improvements can be made. This cooperative, pro-active approach, with producers, veterinarians, inspectors, and the University of Maine working together is part of the success of Maine’s program.

The Maine SE Risk Reduction and Surveillance Program is nationally recognized, as is the program’s founder, retired University of Maine poultry pathologist Dr. H. Michael Opitz. This program was described at length in a feature article in Egg Industry magazine (November, 2009). Today it remains a center of attention: Iowa’s Democratic candidate for State Secretary of Agriculture stated that he “would lay out a regulatory framework to ensure food safety in the egg industry,” noting that it would mirror Maine’s egg safety program.

Most importantly, Dr. Donald Hoenig, the Maine State Veterinarian, stated that in the 20-plus year history of the SE Risk Reduction and Surveillance Program, there has not been a single human case of salmonella illness linked to Maine eggs. On September 16, 2010, he stated to the Associated Press: “I wouldn’t hesitate to buy eggs from any of the Maine farms. Period.” Is Dr. Hoenig an agribusiness-friendly regulator? Not hardly. He is the immediate past president of the United States Animal Health Association, whose purpose is “to control livestock diseases in the United States.” He is a member of the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s Council of Public Health and Regulatory Medicine and has been honored with the Maine Veterinary Medical Association’s Service Award.

The guidance which Maine producers operate under is very simple: “Clean Birds in Clean Houses. And to be sure, Vaccinate.” We are both fortunate and proud to provide New England with brown eggs. We appreciate the opportunity also to assure you that these eggs are not only local and fresh, but also safe."

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Laura Wareck

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