Dispatch: No vaccines for U.S. hens?

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Amid one of the largest egg recalls in U.S. history, some food-safety advocates are criticizing the FDA’s decision not to include mandatory hen vaccinations against salmonella in the agency’s new egg safety rules. After a similar salmonella outbreak in the 1990s, Britain encouraged farmers to inoculate their hens, and last year saw just 581 cases of salmonella poisoning — a 96 percent drop from 1997. However, FDA officials tell The New York Times there simply wasn’t sufficient evidence to require mandatory vaccinations. Perhaps the FDA is more concerned about vaccine safety than food safety when it argues that only large-scale field trials can definitively prove that vaccines can work for commercial henhouses.

“This is an example of ‘caution’ having a negative consequence on health,” says ACSH’s Jeff Stier. “Everyone is afraid of having too many vaccines or over-medicating people who aren’t sick, or in this case, animals who aren’t sick — and blaming this outbreak on a lack of safety regulations. But as ACSH trustee Dr. Henry Miller has pointed out, instead of simply asking for new regulations, we should be developing new technologies to create better food safety policies. In this case, even using an ‘old’ vaccine technology could have prevented this outbreak. You will never have enough inspectors to prevent every problem, but you can add technology to change the game. We should have learned a lesson from previous outbreaks — but apparently we were too chicken.”