Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe?

Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe?
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Freedom of Information Act documents reveal that the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned the egg industry that saying eggs are nutritious or safe may violate rules against false and misleading advertising.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The American Egg Board is a promotional marketing board appointed by the U.S. government, whose “mission is to increase demand for egg and egg products on behalf of U.S. egg producers.” Now, if an individual egg company wants to run an ad campaign, they can say whatever they want. But, if an egg corporation wants to dip into the ten million dollars the American Egg Board sets aside for advertising, because the board is overseen by the federal government, corporations are not allowed to lie with those funds. What a concept! Which leads to quite revealing exchanges between the egg corporations that want to use that money, and the USDA—on what egg companies can and cannot say about eggs.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get my hands on some of those emails. Of course, a lot of what I got looked like this: “Please note a number of items” about our “Salmonella Crisis…Module…any questions[?]” Or, even better, entire sheets of paper that literally just said this [“Please consider the environment before printing this email”]. That was the whole sheet of paper. Our tax dollars, hard at work.

But check this out. This is some egg company trying to put out a brochure on “healthy snacking” for kids. But because of existing laws against false and misleading advertising, the head of USDA’s Poultry Research and Promotion program reminds them that “you can’t couch eggs [or] egg products as being ‘healthy’ or ‘nutritious.'” See, the words “[nutritious and healthy carry certain connotations” (you know, that a food is actually good for you). But, “because eggs have the amount of cholesterol they do” (plus all the saturated fat), the words healthy and nutritious “are problematic” when it comes to eggs. This is the USDA saying this! However, the USDA helpfully suggests, you can say eggs are “nutrient-dense.”

Wait a second. Why can you say eggs are nutrient-dense, but not nutritious? Because there’s no legal definition of nutrient-dense. You can say Twinkies and Coca Cola are nutrient-dense, but legally, you can’t say something is nutritious unless it’s actually nutritious.

So, for example, the egg industry wanted to run this ad calling eggs a “Nutritional POWERHOUSE [that] aids in weight [loss].” The USDA had to remind the industry you can’t “portray eggs as a diet food, because of the fat and cholesterol content.” In fact, “they have nearly twice the calories of anything that can be called low-calorie.”

“‘Nutritional powerhouse’ can’t be used, either.” Fine, the industry said. They’ll “move…to PLAN B, and headline the ad “Egg-ceptional Nutrition.” Nope, because again, given the saturated fat and cholesterol, you can’t legally call eggs nutritious. So, the ad ended up: “Find true satisfaction.” And, instead of weight loss, they had to go with “Can reduce hunger.” USDA congratulated them on their “clever[ness].” Yes, a food that, when eaten, can reduce hunger—what a concept.

You can’t even call eggs a food “relatively low in calories.” Can’t say “eggs are low in saturated fat”—they’re not. Can’t say they’re “relatively low in…fat.” Can’t even call them a rich source of protein—because they’re not.

It’s illegal to advertise that eggs “pack a…nutritional wallop.” “Can’t [truthfully] say that.” Or, have a “high nutritional content.” You can’t say eggs are “nutritious” at all. Can’t say “nutritious;” cannot say eggs are “nutritious.” (Sometimes you have to tell the industry a few times.) Eggs have so much cholesterol, you can’t even say they “contribute[s] nutritionally.” Can’t say eggs are “healthful,” certainly can’t say they’re “healthy.” Have you seen how much cholesterol there is in those things? Can’t say “healthy.” Can’t even say eggs “contribute healthful components.”

Since you can’t say eggs are a “healthy…start to the day,” the USDA suggests “satisfying start.” Can’t call eggs a “healthful ingredient,” but you can call eggs a “recognizable ingredient.” Can’t truthfully say eggs are “good for you.” Can’t say they’re “good for you.” By law, the egg industry “need[s] to steer clear of words like ‘healthy’ or…’nutritious.’”

For a food to be labeled “healthy” under FDA rules, it has to be low in saturated fat. Eggs fail that test—and less than 90mg of cholesterol per serving. Even half an egg fails that criteria. For the same reason you can’t tout “an ice cream” for healthy bones, you can’t say eggs are healthy—because they exceed the limit for cholesterol.

Egg corporations aren’t even allowed to say things like “Eggs are an important part of a well- balanced, healthy diet” on an egg carton, because it would be “considered misleading,” according to the USDA’s National Egg Supervisor—”since eggs contain significant amounts of fat and cholesterol,” and, therefore, contribute to the leading killer in the United States, heart disease.

The industry can’t afford to tell the truth about eggs, or even the hens that lay them. The industry crams five to ten birds in cages the size of a file cabinet their whole lives, but when providing footage to the media, the American Egg Board instructs, “Do not show multiple birds in cages—they look too crowded and open us up to activist criticism.” In other words, do not show the truth.

Not only is the industry barred from saying eggs are healthy; they can’t even refer to eggs as “safe.” “[A]ll references to safety must be removed,” because more than a hundred thousand Americans are salmonella-poisoned every year from eggs.

The egg board response to this eggborne epidemic is that salmonella is “a naturally occurring bacteria.” The egg industry didn’t think that should necessarily be the key message, fearing, “It may be counterproductive by implying there is no avoiding Salmonella in eggs aside from avoiding eggs all together.”

That’s why the American Egg Board can’t even mention anything but eggs cooked hard and dry. No “soft-boiled,” no “over easy,” no “sunny side up,” because of salmonella.

The American Egg Board’s own research showed that “The sunny-side-up [cooking] method should be considered unsafe.” And, because of “avian influenza,” as well, not just salmonella. In light of bird flu viruses, eggs must be cooked “firm.” The “VP [of[ Marketing” for the Egg Board complained to the USDA, saying they’d, you know, “really like to not have to dictate that yolks are firm.”

You know, what about some “Washington Post article” saying runny yolks may be safe for everyone, except “pregnant women, infants, the elderly [or] those with chronic disease”? Turns out that was a “misquote”—they can’t be considered safe for anyone.

Instead of safe, you can call eggs “fresh,” the USDA Marketing Service helpfully suggests. But you can’t call eggs “safe,” you cannot say eggs are “safe to eat,” can’t say they’re “safe,” can’t even mention “safety,” can’t say they’re “healthful.” All “[r]eferences to healthfulness must be deleted,” as well.

Wait a second. Eggs can’t really be called healthy? Eggs can’t even really be called safe? Says who? Says the United States Department of Agriculture.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to psgreen01 and akeg via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The American Egg Board is a promotional marketing board appointed by the U.S. government, whose “mission is to increase demand for egg and egg products on behalf of U.S. egg producers.” Now, if an individual egg company wants to run an ad campaign, they can say whatever they want. But, if an egg corporation wants to dip into the ten million dollars the American Egg Board sets aside for advertising, because the board is overseen by the federal government, corporations are not allowed to lie with those funds. What a concept! Which leads to quite revealing exchanges between the egg corporations that want to use that money, and the USDA—on what egg companies can and cannot say about eggs.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get my hands on some of those emails. Of course, a lot of what I got looked like this: “Please note a number of items” about our “Salmonella Crisis…Module…any questions[?]” Or, even better, entire sheets of paper that literally just said this [“Please consider the environment before printing this email”]. That was the whole sheet of paper. Our tax dollars, hard at work.

But check this out. This is some egg company trying to put out a brochure on “healthy snacking” for kids. But because of existing laws against false and misleading advertising, the head of USDA’s Poultry Research and Promotion program reminds them that “you can’t couch eggs [or] egg products as being ‘healthy’ or ‘nutritious.'” See, the words “[nutritious and healthy carry certain connotations” (you know, that a food is actually good for you). But, “because eggs have the amount of cholesterol they do” (plus all the saturated fat), the words healthy and nutritious “are problematic” when it comes to eggs. This is the USDA saying this! However, the USDA helpfully suggests, you can say eggs are “nutrient-dense.”

Wait a second. Why can you say eggs are nutrient-dense, but not nutritious? Because there’s no legal definition of nutrient-dense. You can say Twinkies and Coca Cola are nutrient-dense, but legally, you can’t say something is nutritious unless it’s actually nutritious.

So, for example, the egg industry wanted to run this ad calling eggs a “Nutritional POWERHOUSE [that] aids in weight [loss].” The USDA had to remind the industry you can’t “portray eggs as a diet food, because of the fat and cholesterol content.” In fact, “they have nearly twice the calories of anything that can be called low-calorie.”

“‘Nutritional powerhouse’ can’t be used, either.” Fine, the industry said. They’ll “move…to PLAN B, and headline the ad “Egg-ceptional Nutrition.” Nope, because again, given the saturated fat and cholesterol, you can’t legally call eggs nutritious. So, the ad ended up: “Find true satisfaction.” And, instead of weight loss, they had to go with “Can reduce hunger.” USDA congratulated them on their “clever[ness].” Yes, a food that, when eaten, can reduce hunger—what a concept.

You can’t even call eggs a food “relatively low in calories.” Can’t say “eggs are low in saturated fat”—they’re not. Can’t say they’re “relatively low in…fat.” Can’t even call them a rich source of protein—because they’re not.

It’s illegal to advertise that eggs “pack a…nutritional wallop.” “Can’t [truthfully] say that.” Or, have a “high nutritional content.” You can’t say eggs are “nutritious” at all. Can’t say “nutritious;” cannot say eggs are “nutritious.” (Sometimes you have to tell the industry a few times.) Eggs have so much cholesterol, you can’t even say they “contribute[s] nutritionally.” Can’t say eggs are “healthful,” certainly can’t say they’re “healthy.” Have you seen how much cholesterol there is in those things? Can’t say “healthy.” Can’t even say eggs “contribute healthful components.”

Since you can’t say eggs are a “healthy…start to the day,” the USDA suggests “satisfying start.” Can’t call eggs a “healthful ingredient,” but you can call eggs a “recognizable ingredient.” Can’t truthfully say eggs are “good for you.” Can’t say they’re “good for you.” By law, the egg industry “need[s] to steer clear of words like ‘healthy’ or…’nutritious.’”

For a food to be labeled “healthy” under FDA rules, it has to be low in saturated fat. Eggs fail that test—and less than 90mg of cholesterol per serving. Even half an egg fails that criteria. For the same reason you can’t tout “an ice cream” for healthy bones, you can’t say eggs are healthy—because they exceed the limit for cholesterol.

Egg corporations aren’t even allowed to say things like “Eggs are an important part of a well- balanced, healthy diet” on an egg carton, because it would be “considered misleading,” according to the USDA’s National Egg Supervisor—”since eggs contain significant amounts of fat and cholesterol,” and, therefore, contribute to the leading killer in the United States, heart disease.

The industry can’t afford to tell the truth about eggs, or even the hens that lay them. The industry crams five to ten birds in cages the size of a file cabinet their whole lives, but when providing footage to the media, the American Egg Board instructs, “Do not show multiple birds in cages—they look too crowded and open us up to activist criticism.” In other words, do not show the truth.

Not only is the industry barred from saying eggs are healthy; they can’t even refer to eggs as “safe.” “[A]ll references to safety must be removed,” because more than a hundred thousand Americans are salmonella-poisoned every year from eggs.

The egg board response to this eggborne epidemic is that salmonella is “a naturally occurring bacteria.” The egg industry didn’t think that should necessarily be the key message, fearing, “It may be counterproductive by implying there is no avoiding Salmonella in eggs aside from avoiding eggs all together.”

That’s why the American Egg Board can’t even mention anything but eggs cooked hard and dry. No “soft-boiled,” no “over easy,” no “sunny side up,” because of salmonella.

The American Egg Board’s own research showed that “The sunny-side-up [cooking] method should be considered unsafe.” And, because of “avian influenza,” as well, not just salmonella. In light of bird flu viruses, eggs must be cooked “firm.” The “VP [of[ Marketing” for the Egg Board complained to the USDA, saying they’d, you know, “really like to not have to dictate that yolks are firm.”

You know, what about some “Washington Post article” saying runny yolks may be safe for everyone, except “pregnant women, infants, the elderly [or] those with chronic disease”? Turns out that was a “misquote”—they can’t be considered safe for anyone.

Instead of safe, you can call eggs “fresh,” the USDA Marketing Service helpfully suggests. But you can’t call eggs “safe,” you cannot say eggs are “safe to eat,” can’t say they’re “safe,” can’t even mention “safety,” can’t say they’re “healthful.” All “[r]eferences to healthfulness must be deleted,” as well.

Wait a second. Eggs can’t really be called healthy? Eggs can’t even really be called safe? Says who? Says the United States Department of Agriculture.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to psgreen01 and akeg via flickr

Doctor's Note

For more peeks behind the egg industry curtain, see:

For all our videos on the latest research on eggs, visit our Eggs topic page.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Egg Industry Caught Making False Claims.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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