Makings of Salmonella Egg Scare Began in 2008

(Article on salmonella in eggs updated with details of "disturbing environmental sample results" for Wright County Egg)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A House committee letter to Wright County Egg asking the owner Austin DeCoster to "address questions about disturbing environmental sample results" indicated that the company tested positive for salmonella on multiple occasions between 2008 and 2010 -- years before the recent, nationwide outbreak of illnesses traceable to salmonella-tainted eggs.

The letter said records show that between those years Wright County Egg had received 426 positive results for salmonella, including 73 samples that were potentially positive for the strain of salmonella that has gotten 1,519 people sick.
Wright County Eggs

According to Washington Post, egg producers aren't required to notify the FDA of salmonella detection at their facilities under federal law. However new rules prohibit egg producers who find salmonella at their facilities from selling shell eggs from there until they've tested negative for contamination, according to the report.

In August U.S. health officials told reporters at a news conference that they discovered maggots, manure and rodents at the two Iowa egg companies tied to the recent nationwide salmonella egg scare.

"These are significant deviations from what should be happening," Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods said, according to reports.

"There was a failure to manage waste from animals that created a risk for contamination," he said.

Officials added that they had collected a sample of salmonella-tainted water from water used to wash the exterior of eggs at the Hillandale farm.

Meanwhile, the recall of more than a half billion eggs that were linked to the outbreak of salmonella poisoning across the country drove up egg prices.

DesMoinesRegister.com reported that wholesale egg prices shot up 38% to $1.35 for a dozen eggs since about mid-August, when chatter about salmonella-tainted eggs from an Iowa producer began to spread.

Between May 1 to July 31, a total of 1,953 salmonella-related illnesses were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While some of those cases may prove unrelated to the tainted eggs, reports indicated that at least 23 states may have been affected by the recall.

According to the CDC, the eggs were traced back to Wright County Egg, in Galt, Iowa and Hillandale Farms of Iowa.

On Aug. 13, Wright County Egg issued a nationwide voluntary recall of shell eggs. Five days later the company expanded the scope of its recall. On Aug. 20, Hillandale Farms of Iowa conducted its nationwide recall.
Eggs Recalled

Previously, health authorities said that they were notified of approximately 200 salmonella cases related to eggs a week from late June through early July, compared with roughly 50 cases a week during this same period in the previous five years.

Eggs affected by this recall were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and food service companies in states including California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

The eggs were packaged under the following brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps. A full list of egg brands affected by the recall can be found on the FDA Web site.

The CDC warned consumer to not eat recalled eggs, and that the recalled eggs might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers' homes. "Consumers who have recalled eggs should discard them or return them to their retailer for a refund."

Individuals who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should consult their health care providers, the CDC advised.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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