The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing to collaborate with federal and state partners -- including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state public health and agriculture officials -- to investigate a nationwide increase of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) infections. Joint FDA/CDC field investigation teams are working to identify potential sources of SE infection in shell eggs.
Since May 2010, the CDC has identified a nationwide, four-fold increase in the number of SE isolates through PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories. CDC received reports of approximately 200 SE cases every week during late June and early July. Normally, CDC has received an average of some 50 reports of SE illness each week for the past five years. Many states have also reported increases of this pattern since May 2010.
Epidemiologic investigations conducted by public health officials in California, Colorado, and Minnesota have revealed several restaurants or events where more than one person ill with this type of SE has eaten. Preliminary information from these investigations suggests that shell eggs are the likely source of infections in many of these restaurants or events.
FDA, CDC, and state partners conducted a traceback investigation and found many of these restaurants or events received shell eggs from a single firm, Wright County Egg, in Galt, Iowa. FDA is currently conducting an extensive investigation at the firm in Iowa. The investigation involves sampling, records review and looking for potential sources of contamination, such as feed. As the investigation continues, updates will be made available.
On August 13, 2010, Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa, conducted a nationwide voluntary recall of shell eggs that it had shipped since May 19, 2010 to food wholesalers, distribution centers and foodservice companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. These companies distribute nationwide. The recalled shell eggs are packaged under the following brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsmas, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.
State and local partners are also investigating human Salmonella infections in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
Currently, there has been a recall of at least 380 million eggs in the past week due to concerns over salmonella contamination.
"Salmonella causes 1.4 million cases in the U.S each year; that's somewhat more than 100,000 cases every month. This is an important outbreak, but salmonella causes lots of cases beyond this outbreak," says Martin Wiedmann, a professor of food science in Cornells College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and an expert on foodborne diseases and pathogens, including salmonella and its transmission in food from farm animals to humans. "The key is to look at all sources. While eggs are an important source of human salmonellosis, many people get sick due to salmonella from a variety of other sources. We need to attack the problem at all levels and at all transmission pathways. Eggs are only one part of the story."
Patrick McDonough, a professor of microbiology, an expert in health effects and control of salmonella, and a clinical bacteriologist/mycologist in the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornells College of Veterinary Medicine, notes, ""We used to think that just washing the egg shell, and using Grade A shell eggs, would keep us safe. However, we know that infected hens do not show clinical signs and that the infection is harbored in the ovaries. When the shell is laid down, it actually covers the yolk, the albumen and the infection. If all works as it is supposed to, we would not have salmonella enteritidis outbreaks. Because we know the risks and how to control, prevent or mitigate as appropriate, the number of outbreaks should be able to be decreased. This is especially important as we have a growing, aging population and these people are one of the groups especially at risk."
Craig Altier, director of the clinical microbiology lab at the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornells College of Veterinary Medicine, explains, "The opportunity to control food-borne infections exists at many levels. There are programs to reduce contamination of food at national and state levels, but it is equally important that individuals handle food safely. We all need to participate in the effort to stop the spread of foodborne infections."
The following statement was released by officials of Wright County Egg:
"Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa is expanding its voluntary recall (original recall date: Aug. 13, 2010) of specific Julian dates of shell eggs produced by their farms because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis or arthritis.
"Eggs affected by the expanded recall were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and foodservice companies in California, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. These companies distribute nationwide.
"Eggs are packaged under the following brand names: Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942.
"Dates and codes can be found stamped on the end of the egg carton or printed on the case label. The plant number begins with the letter P and then the number. The Julian date follows the plant number, for example: P-1720 223.
"Eggs under the August 13, 2010 recall are 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. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946.
"There have been confirmed Salmonella enteritidis illnesses relating to the shell eggs and traceback investigations are ongoing.
"Wright County Egg is fully cooperating with FDA's investigation by undertaking this voluntary recall. Our primary concern is keeping Salmonella out of the food supply and away from consumers. As a precautionary measure, Wright County Egg also has decided to divert its existing inventory of shell eggs from the recalled plants to a breaker, where they will be pasteurized to kill any Salmonella bacteria present.
"Consumers who believe they may have purchased these shell eggs should not eat them but should return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. This recall is of shell eggs only. Other egg products produced by Wright County Eggs are not affected. Consumers with questions should visit www.eggsafety.org or call Wright County's toll-free information number (866-272-5582), which contains a message outlining recall instructions for consumers.
"We are undertaking this additional recall to further protect the safety of consumers -- this voluntary measure is consistent with our commitment to egg safety, and it is our responsibility. "
Advice for Consumers
- Dont eat recalled eggs or products containing recalled eggs. 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 healthcare providers.
- Keep shell eggs refrigerated at 45 F (7 C) 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 persons, and person with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.