National Consumers League


NCL Food Issues

Exposing new links between animal mistreatment and food safety threats

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NCL joining with The Humane Society to expose factory abusesNCL has once again joined with The Humane Society of the United States to expose new links between inhumane treatment and food safety threats recently uncovered in a new investigation at a Texas egg factory farm. Read Sally Greenberg's statement.


Statement of Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Press Conference with The Humane Society

November 17, 2010

The National Consumers League is celebrating our 111th anniversary this year – since our founding we have always stood for a humane and ethical workplace for both workers and consumers. During NCL’s first decade at the turn of the 20th Century, our leaders conducted factory inspections and awarded White Labels to those workplaces that met basic standards of decency. I’m quite sure that the Texas Egg Farm we see in this video would have been rejected by those intrepid inspectors for the National Consumers League.

What we saw on the screen is both heartbreaking and indefensible.

  • This is not just an animal rights issue but a consumer issue as well; consumers don’t want to buy products from companies that abuse their workers, mistreat their animals, or pollute the environment – and consumers certainly do not want to buy pathogen-contaminated food that could make them or their loved ones sick.
  • There is a link between caged birds and salmonella. A number of studies on conditions of hens documents this link and appear on the Humane Society website: One 2008 Belgian Study in published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine says “the main risk factor [for higher salmonella contamination] that was identified was rearing hens in cages compared to barns and free range systems”
  • There is also a definite link between large flock size and salmonella. And in the US we have much larger flock sizes. A forthcoming study from Poultry Science that got a mention in a recent USA Today article will document that on average, large-scale U.S. layer operations with more than 100,000 hens per house are four times more likely to test positive for salmonella enteritidis than smaller houses with fewer than 100,000 hens –The report suggests that one reason might be that salmonella is transmitted in contaminated feces and dust, and higher densities of birds mean more of both.

I want to make one additional point. This August, as the largest egg recall in history was underway – with 500 million eggs involved, we had a phenomenon known as blame shifting happening when consumers got sick from contaminated eggs. The United Egg Producers made this statement: “Consumers that were sickened reportedly all ate eggs that were not properly or thoroughly cooked.”   Talk about blaming the victim! In fact, many consumers who got sick eating eggs ate them at restaurants where they have little control over food preparation. I also heard the testimony on Capital Hill from two consumers who were infected with the Salmonella pathogen from eating dishes made with eggs – both of their lives are unalterably changed – both spent weeks in the hospital hooked up to tubes  and both would have died without  medical intervention. Salmonella enteritidis is a very serious matter.

There are ways to reduce the incidence of Salmonella . Paying attention the conditions under which the hens are kept is critical as is the size of flock, age of infrastructure (older buildings are harder to clean), cleaning method between flocks, egg collection method and vaccination rates of chickens. But size matters. Overall, big flocks have more salmonella than small flocks, and caged flocks are bigger than cage-free small flocks.

An abundance of evidence suggests that phasing out cage confinement can decrease the risk of foodborne illness from Salmonella-tainted egg.

We are proud to join with the Humane Society of the US and thank them for their undercover work.  For the safety of consumers and the fair treatment of animals it makes sense to move the egg industry towards a cage-free future

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