A bill that would transfer state oversight of egg handling and marketing from one state agency to another is set for debate in a House Committee. Three legislators reviewed the bill early this morning.

Representative Dan Muhlbauer, a Democrat from Manilla, says transferring jurisdiction from the Department of Inspections and Appeals over to the Ag Department makes sense.

“Because the Inspections and Appeals, they work more with the food side of it — the hotels, the food industries, the restaurants, where our ag sector deals more with the production side, so it’ll match in better,” Muhlbauer says.

The switch, which would happen in 2012 if the bill becomes law, would give the Iowa Department of Agriculture jurisdiction over so-called “egg handlers” who buy and sell eggs, as well as the producers who raise the hens that lay the eggs. Muhlbauer says the bill just transfers regulatory authority from one state agency to another — it doesn’t create any new state regulations for the poultry industry.

“We’re just saying who is going to oversee the inspections of it,” he says. Two north central Iowa poultry operations were at the center of last summer’s massive egg recall involving salmonella-contaminated eggs. Muhlbauer says the hope is the ag department can help prevent future outbreaks.

“Will it stop it 100 percent? That’s always hard to say when you’re in big production like this out in the ag sector, but we’ll do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again,” he says. “Eggs will be safe. Eat your eggs.” Muhlbauer is a farmer, but he does not raise chickens.

According to the Iowa Egg Council, there are more than 80 egg producers in Iowa with 57 million laying hens. Those hens lay more than 14 billion eggs each year.