'Grade A' on eggs doesn't mean what you think it means

Thursday, September 02, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: eggs, USDA, health news

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(NaturalNews) The "Grade A" seal on supermarket egg cartons means that the eggs inside are safe and of the highest quality, right? According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shield of approval is actually little more than a marketing ploy with no guarantee of safety.

Contrary to popular belief, the USDA does not even regulate the safety of eggs. USDA "graders" merely observe eggs at egg packing plants to make sure they are of the proper size and color, and ensure that their shells are intact. That is it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with ensuring the quality and safety of eggs, but based on recent inspections prompted by the massive egg recall, the agency has clearly failed to do its job in this area. The USDA, on the other hand, merely helps market the idea that American food is safe, both here and abroad.

According to reports, the "Grade A" seal on egg cartons is optional, and many egg companies do not participate in the program. But many do, and some merely for the purpose of being able to sell their eggs at a higher cost.

So in essence, the seal is nothing more than a meaningless marketing gimmick that tricks people into thinking that "Grade A" eggs are somehow safer than other eggs.

Wright County Egg, one of the companies involved in the recent egg recall, is one of many egg companies that pays the USDA to grade its eggs and apply its often-misconstrued seal of approval. And not everyone is pleased with this, considering many people misunderstand the seal to mean something that it does not.

"The USDA stamp should have a clear and consistent message to consumers--not a stamp of quality assurance that may be misinterpreted as a stamp of safety," explained Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. She believes that only one agency should be in charge of governing food safety in order to eliminate much of the confusion.

For meat, though, the USDA seal of approval actually does mean that inspectors have verified both the safety and quality of the meat being sold, at least according to the agency's own prescribed standards.

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