Is the Egg Recall Your Fault?

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More than half a billion eggs were recalled last week over concerns they were contaminated with salmonella, but now the industry is arguing that consumers may be to blame.

A spokesperson for the United Egg Producers, a group that represents the nation’s egg farmers, told USA Today that all of the consumers who have so far reported being sick from the recalled eggs ate them without cooking the eggs properly.

"It may sound harsh, and I don't mean it to sound that way. But all the responsibility cannot be placed on the farmer,” Krista Eberle, director of the United Egg Producers’ Food Safety Programs, told USA Today. “Somewhere along the line, consumers have to be responsible for what they put in their bodies."

The advice itself is sound – and echoes a recent statement from the FDA – that consumers have a responsibility to themselves to prepare their own food properly. Yet, as some other publications have since pointed out, this statement ultimately may be trying to transplant too much of the blame for the health effects of the recalled eggs from the industry onto the consumer. After all, if the egg is contaminated with salmonella, that is the result of how it was farmed.

The egg industry is not the first to use this defense.

Last month, an early report by the U.S. Department of Transportation investigating accidents involving Toyotas recalled because of faulty gas pedals found that drivers may actually bear the blame. According to the findings, even though there were acceleration pedals in many cars, at the time of the accidents in question, the drivers had apparently failed to use the brakes.

Similarly, when rumors were swirling earlier this summer that Apple might be forced to recall the iPhone 4 over signal problems, CEO Steve Jobs responded by pinning the blame on consumers for holding the phone the wrong way.

All of this raises the question of when and if consumers are to blame for injuries and health problems resulting from recalls. In each of these cases, consumers were essentially told they were to blame for the damage done by a product’s failure, despite the fact there was some inherent manufacturing flaw.

This isn’t to say that consumers should never be blamed for what happens after a recall. In fact, one study found that 12% of Americans continue to eat recalled foods even after the recall has been announced, which means those people are essentially just testing fate by failing to take the proper precautions even in the face of a known risk.

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