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Food safety: How to keep our global menu off the recall list

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While other nations modernize their food-safety systems – at least for their exports – attempts to do the same in the United States have lagged. Legislation that would strengthen the agency responsible for the safety of most of the nation's food supply has languished in the Senate for more than a year. Meanwhile, high-profile recalls of spinach, lettuce, and eggs remind consumers that gaps in food safety remain.

"The US is truly at risk if Congress continues to let our food-safety system languish," says Caroline Smith DeWaal, food-safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit in Washington.

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An Iowa egg farm in August is nobody's tourist stop. The sweltering heat makes the manure extra pungent. Flies can be a problem. Even by those standards, however, the poor conditions in House 17 of the Layer 3 facility at Wright County Egg were noteworthy.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors who went to the facility in Clarion, Iowa, found gaps in the doors, through which wildlife could get in, possibly contaminating the feed. The live and dead flies inside the egg-laying house were too numerous to count, the inspectors reported. The manure pile under the house was so big – at least four feet high – that it had pushed out the doors to the manure pit, giving open access to rodents. The inspectors wrote: "Dark liquid which appeared to be manure was observed seeping through the concrete foundation."

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