Aug. 19, 2010 -- Eggs are behind a nationwide salmonella outbreak that caused hundreds of illnesses each week in June and July.
The nationwide egg recall has expanded to include eggs made from five plants owned by Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa. It now involves more than a dozen major brands that got eggs from this company. The New York Times reports that the recall now includes 380 million eggs.
Eggs were traced to the company after the CDC noticed a four-fold increase in Salmonella Enteritidis isolates from people suffering food poisoning. State investigators in California, Colorado, and Minnesota found clusters of illness from this salmonella strain among people who ate eggs at the same restaurants. Those restaurants got eggs that came from Wright County Egg.
Investigations continue in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. According to a CDC spokeswoman, the outbreak is "pretty much nationwide."
Meanwhile, the FDA is conducting a thorough investigation of the Iowa firm to which the contaminated eggs were traced. The company says it already has sent all its remaining eggs to a breaker, where they will be pasteurized to kill any salmonella.
Shell eggs included in the recall were shipped since May to food wholesalers, distribution centers, and food service companies in eight states, from which they were distributed nationwide.
The brand names included in the expanded recall include Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps, and Pacific Coast. Stamped on the end of the recalled egg cartons are Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942. Recalled eggs are in six, dozen, and 18-egg cartons, as well as loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging.
The brand names included in the original recall are Lucerne, Albertsons, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms, and Kemps. Recalled eggs are in six, dozen, and 18-egg cartons. Stamped on the end of the recalled egg cartons are Julian dates ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942, 1026, 1413, and 1946.
The plant number begins with the letter P and then the number. The Julian date follows the plant number, for example: P-1946 223. Recalled eggs may be returned to the store for a full refund.
The salmonella strain causing the outbreak is Salmonella Enteritidis, the most common salmonella strain. Usually the CDC gets about 50 reports a week of Salmonella Enteritidis food poisoning; beginning in May there was a fourfold increase in salmonella reports. Each week in late June and early July the CDC received some 200 salmonella samples isolated from patients, all with the same DNA fingerprint.
Most people recover without antibiotic treatment, but severe cases can be fatal. People prone to severe illness -- particularly severe diarrhea -- include the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems, including people on immune suppressive therapy such as cancer chemotherapy.
How to Avoid Food Poisoning From Eggs
This salmonella outbreak is caused by intact and disinfected eggs. The eggs come from salmonella-infected hens that carry the bacteria in their ovaries and pass it to eggs as they are being formed.
Eggs that appear to be fresh and normal may actually harbor salmonella.
If you like your eggs prepared over easy, you may want to change your egg-eating habits. Here's the CDC's advice on how to avoid food poisoning from eggs:
- Don’t eat recalled eggs or products containing recalled eggs. Recalled eggs might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes. Consumers who have recalled eggs should discard them or return them to their retailer for a refund.
- People who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should consult their health care providers.
- Keep eggs refrigerated at least to 45 degrees F at all times.
- Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
- Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
- Eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm and eaten promptly after cooking.
- Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods promptly.
- Avoid eating raw eggs.
- Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing) that calls for raw eggs.
- Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.