Scrambling for Eggs

As I mentioned before, I’m a member of the NC Food Diversion Task Force. It’s a new group (we’re just working on our mission statement) with members from all walks of life. We met today for the third time at the pastoral RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) building.

What jumped out at me during today’s meeting was the obstacle that regulations play in thwarting food donations. We all recognize the importance of food safety, especially in light of recent health scares. But a reinterpretation of an existing USDA ruling meant that the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina lost its main source of eggs last November.

The company that delivers eggs to a major supermarket used to take back the rejected cartons on the same truck and donate them to the Food Bank. These cartons typically have one or two broken eggs, but the rest are fine. But the company received a reminder that this practice violated USDA regulations preventing such “comingling” of fresh eggs and the rejects for possible contamination risk.

As a result, the Food Bank lost its weekly supply of more than 10,000 pounds of eggs, about a half tractor trailer full. The Food Bank now gets just five percent of that amount by making pickups at individual stores. The rest end up in the dumpster.

I’m no expert, but this seems ridiculous. By placing the damaged eggs below the fresh ones, you’ve minimized contamination fears and saved thousands of pounds of eggs.

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FYI, if you haven’t seen it, have a look at my op-ed about keeping food out of landfills that ran recently in The Charlotte Observer.

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