FDA clears Wright County Egg to resume retail sales

Nov 30, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today cleared Wright County Egg to resume shipping eggs directly to consumers, now that the company has corrected conditions in two of its egg-laying houses and addressed possible sources of Salmonella contamination.

Since August, when the Galt, Iowa, company's eggs were linked to a multistate Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) outbreak, it has been allowed to send its eggs to "breaker operations," companies that use the broken and heated eggs in other food products.

Dr Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner, said in a press release that during the outbreak the FDA said it wouldn't agree to allow Wright County Egg to resume selling eggs to consumers until the agency was confident that the eggs could be safely shipped and consumed. "After four months of intensive work by the company and oversight, testing, and inspections by FDA, I am satisfied that time has come," she said.

The FDA's clearance hinged on corrections that addressed four contamination pathways. In contaminated egg-laying areas, birds present during the outbreak were removed, and the barns were cleaned, sanitized, and tested to make sure SE was no longer present. Infected pullets were removed and replaced with birds free of and vaccinated against SE.

Rodent problems have also been corrected, and the company has put in place control and weekly monitoring systems, the FDA said.

During the outbreak investigation, federal officials found SE contamination in feed produced at the farm's feed mill. The FDA said today that the company has cleaned and disinfected the mill, repaired structural defects, and eliminated egg shells, meat, and bone meal from the feed. It is also testing its feed ingredients for SE.

The FDA said it confirmed Wright County Egg's corrective actions during inspections in October and November. Since October the inspections have involved 13 investigators working 900 personnel hours to analyze 40 feed samples, 236 environmental samples, and 13,900 shell eggs, the FDA said.

During the course of the investigation, eggs from the two laying houses tested positive for SE twice in FDA tests and once in Wright County Egg's tests. The FDA said the firm will conduct monthly tests for SE and that it would continue to do environmental sampling and inspections to ensure that the corrective measures are effective.

Corrective measures are still being implemented in other laying houses at six Wright County Egg farms, and the FDA said it would continue working with the company to ensure that corrections are made before the agency allows eggs to be shipped from the other houses and farms.

On Oct 19, the FDA cleared the other company involved in the SE outbreak, Hillandale Farms, to resume sale of eggs to the retail market. At that time it warned Wright County Egg that it would take further enforcement action unless it corrected problems that inspectors found in August.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an Oct 19 update that about 1,813 SE infections were probably linked to the contaminated eggs.

See also:

Nov 30 FDA news release

Oct 19 CDC statement

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