Japanese Examine Sauder's Safety

Lititz Record Express
by Richard Reitz
Record Express Editor

Lititz - When a group of leading Japanese businessmen and engineers wanted to learn more about food environment safety, they came to America.

And when they wanted the best information about controlling the salmonella bacteria, they made a stop at one of the industry leaders - Sauder's Eggs on Route 501 north of Lititz.

On Monday afternoon, 26 Japanese businessmen and women and their translator arrived by coach from a visit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. for a tour of the plant, followed by a question-and-answer period with Paul Sauder, president of Sauder's Eggs, that centered around controlling salmonella.

The visit was part of a cooperative effort between the public and private sector, according to Glen VanDerSchaff, trade representative for Pennsylvania's Bureau of Market Development.

"We appreciate having one of the premiere egg producers in the state open up its facility for this tour," VanDerSchaff said.

He said Pennsylvania has been a leader in the detection and control of the salmonella bacteria, which causes food poisoning and in some cases can be serious.

VanDerSchaaf said a program called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) has been the key to minimizing outbreaks.  "Food safety has been a top priority of the Ridge Administration and the Department of Agriculture,"  he said.

In Japan, a farmer's guide for egg handling has been published, but is only voluntary and not enforced at this point.

"Salmonella has been more of a problem in Japan than in the United States,"  VanDerSchaff said.  According to one of the Japanese visitors, about 10,000 people became ill with salmonella in 1997, with about 3,000 traced back to eggs.  Of those, about 5-6 of the overall cases were fatal.

Following the tour, Sauder told the group that the HACCP system features five key "check points" for salmonella at critical points of production, from birth, to increments of 15-weeks until the 60th week.

"We swab the environment to ensure it is free of salmonella,"  he said.

The manure is tested for salmonella, and if it is positive, then the eggs are checked.  If a flock is found to be infected, the eggs must be taken to a breaking plant, where they are broken open and pasturized to rid the eggs of the bacteria.

According to Sauder, 85 farmers produce eggs for Sauder's, and of those, there are five flocks that have tested positive and where all of the eggs are now taken to a breaking plant.

"Now we are at the point where we are seeing the benefits of our program,"  Sauder said.  Whereas in 1993-94 they experienced five outbreaks of salmonella, he said after HACCP was implemented, they had none.

The improvements in food safety are creating an increase in American egg consumption, according to VanDerSchaff.  Although not quite to the Japanese level of 335 eggs consumed annually per person, Americans are up to 240 in 1997, with a projected 243 annual average this year.

"The increase is because the American consumer has a lot more faith in eggs and safety control,"  VanDerSchaff said.

An hour and a half after they arrived, the Japanese group left for a stop in Harrisburg before continuing their tour in California.  They left Lititz with ideas that may lead to improvements in food safety for an entire nation.

"It's nice to see us ahead of Japan in something,"  Sauder said.

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