How to recall half a billion eggs

Freshly-laid eggs being collected for delivery to the local packing plant.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Here's the latest on the summer of salmonella: The head of the Food and Drug Administration says it still looks like all the eggs are from a couple of farms in Iowa. The offending ova have sickened almost 2,000 people, and the recall just keeps expanding -- half a billion eggs have been plucked off the market. Which got us wondering: How eggsactly do you recall a half a billion eggs?

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson eggsplains.


Jeremy Hobson: Let's put that half a billion in context. Bill hasn't done the stock market numbers yet, but here are the egg market numbers, courtesy of Krista Eberle at the Egg Safety Center.

Krista Eberle: There are about 280 million birds in the United States, chickens that produce eggs. And these chickens produce 300 eggs a year, so if you were to times 280 million by 300, you get around 80 billion eggs produced annually.

Eighty billion eggs produced annually. So that half a billion or so being recalled won't beat up the national egg supply too much. But when something like this happens, getting all those suspect eggs back is not really a possibility.

Food and Drug lawyer Justin Prochnow says the best producers can do in an egg recall is sound the alarms.

Justin Prochnow: And it's really about trying to get the information out to the consumer so that they'll check on it themselves, but it's difficult.

So it's not really a recall -- more of a call out. Prochnow says when it comes to supermarkets with tons of eggs to dispose of...

Prochnow: They'll hire a company like Waste Management or something to come out and destroy the food. And then they'll issue a certificate of destruction, so that the FDA knows that they didn't resell the product but that they in fact destroyed it.

Though Prochnow says it's unlikely there will be a half billion certificates of destruction issued. Seems to me it would be a lot easier if these egg producers just used the Willy Wonka technique from the start. Remember the egg-dicator?

Willy Wonka: The egg-dicator can tell the difference between a good egg and a bad egg. If it's a good egg, it's shined up and shipped out all over the world. But if it's a bad egg...

Honk honk

Down the chute...

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Radke: I hope the egg-dicator works on meat. Today, the big food producer Tyson Foods
said it's recalling about 380,000 pounds of deli meat distributed to Wal-Mart stores, because it may be contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria -- listeria monocytogenes, for you doctor-types.

Vegan anyone?

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