More Salmonella cases linked to recalled eggs

Aug 17, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Reports of Salmonella illnesses in California, Colorado, and Nevada emerged today in the wake of an Iowa company's nationwide egg recall, as federal officials continued their investigation.

Yesterday the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a recall notice that said Wright County Egg, based in Galt, Iowa, was recalling certain Julian dates of shell eggs after state and federal health officials found the products might be linked to a fourfold surge in Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) infections. About 200 SE infections were identified in June and July.

One of the first clues that contaminated eggs might explain the national spike in SE infections was restaurant-linked illness clusters detected by health officials in Colorado, California, and Minnesota. Unusual patterns with SE illnesses can be difficult to detect, because the strain is common year-round.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said yesterday that it typically receives reports of about seven SE cases during June and July, but this year it received 28 during that time span. It said some of the increase is likely related to the recall and to a restaurant outbreak in Jefferson County.

Today the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health warned the public not to eat the recalled eggs and a fruit pulp product that was recently linked to a Salmonella Typhi outbreak. The department said so far the recalled eggs have been linked to 266 SE infections in California, including 43 in Los Angeles County.

Elsewhere, the Southern Nevada Health District has reported 30 SE cases since January, about four times as many as it usually sees by this time of year, according to a report from KTNV, the Las Vegas ABC News affiliate.

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services told CIDRAP News that officials haven't linked any SE cases to the egg recall yet, but the state's public health lab is reviewing some cases to see if they are related.

Wright County Egg's recall notice contained few details about the company. Hinda Mitchell, an egg industry spokeswoman with CMA Consulting in Columbus, Ohio, told CIDRAP News that the farm produces 2.5 million eggs per week from fives sites in Iowa. She added that the farm is compliant with the FDA's new food safety rules and participates in the United Egg Producers' five-star quality assurance food safety program, which covers cleaning and disinfection of poultry houses, pest control, proper egg washing, biosecurity, and refrigeration from packing through delivery.

On Jul 9, new federal rules aimed at reducing SE contamination in eggs took effect, targeting operations that have more than 50,000 laying hens, which account for about 80% of the US egg market. Egg producers who have between 3,000 and 50,000 laying hens will be subject to the new rules in 2 years, and those with 3,000 or fewer birds or who sell their products directly to consumers are exempt from the rules.

The rules are designed to reduce SE contamination in eggs and appear to be similar to the United Egg Producers' voluntary quality assurance program.

In a related development today, NuCal Foods of Ripon, Calif., recalled specific Julian dates of eggs that it packaged from shipments it received from Wright County Egg. NuCal's recall applies to eggs distributed to wholesalers and retailers under four brands: Bayview, Mountain Dairy, Nulaid, and Sun Valley.

See also:

Aug 16 CIDRAP News story "Surge in Salmonella Enteritidis prompts egg recall"

Aug 16 CDPHE press release

Aug 17 Los Angeles Department of Public Health press release

Aug 17 NuCal press release

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