Egg-Breakers in an Uproar Over the Egg King
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Worried that someone with a newfangled machine is poaching on their market, the nation’s egg-breakers are scrambling for protection under the 1985 farm bill.
What alarmed the United Egg Producers, which represents those who break and process eggs for bulk users like restaurants, bakers and institutional kitchens, was a three-foot-high, canister-shaped device called the Egg King.
Developed by Mike Maynard of Tustin, Calif., the machine uses centrifugal force to break eggs and separate out the shell and membrane at a rate of a case a minute, relieving cooks of the laborious job of breaking eggs one at a time.
But it also means the 700 large egg users who so far have bought the machine can buy fresh eggs to use in their foods, rather than the liquid, frozen or powdered product marketed by the egg industry.
So the egg producers, based in Decatur, Ga., hatched a plan.
They persuaded their home-state member of the House Agriculture Committee, Democrat Lindsay Thomas, to add an amendment to the emerging farm bill that prohibits processing of eggs ″in any manner that does not allow examination of the content of individual eggs being processed″ or lets shells mingle with the liquid during processing.
The producers argue that use of the machine opens the possibility of contamination and health problems, such as salmonella poisoning. The Agriculture Committee agreed, and passed the amendment.
When Maynard heard about the action, he asked his own congressman, Robert Badham, R-Calif., to come to the rescue. Badham plans to offer an amendment this week to the farm bill that would undo the anti-Egg King language.
The Thomas amendment ″is patently an attempt by processors of low-quality eggs to monopolize the marketplace,″ said Maynard, who came to Washington to lobby for his machine and enlisted the help of the Retail Bakers of America, the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel & Motel Association.
″They hope to destroy a competitor through legislation, and force food- making establishments to substitute inferior products for healthful, fresh eggs at the expense of the American public,″ the inventor said.
The complaints about the proposed change in the law have prompted the Agriculture Department to look more closely at the egg-breaking machine, including seeking the views of health officials and scientists. The department initially supported Thomas’ change.
Maynard contends the machine is clean and safe if used only to break clean, high-grade eggs. The liquefied eggs produced by the machine are restricted for use only in products that will be cooked or baked, processes he says kill any possible bacteria.
He produced a letter from John M. Taylor, director of compliance for the Food and Drug Administration, stating, ″We have no proof that the machine itself contributes any filth or food additive to the eggs... While we recognize there is a potential for misuse of the machine by using eggs that may contribute filth to the liquid eggs, such adulteration would be caused by the user and not by the machine.″
Badham pointed out that the House committee had held no hearings on the Thomas amendment, but had quietly slipped it onto the bill.
″It would be folly to impose such restrictions on thousands of current and potential users of these egg machines based on unproven claims by competitors that such machines are a health threat,″ he said.