As Egg Recall Expands Nationwide, Thousands Become Ill

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The US Food and Drug Administration is emphasizing the urgency of the salmonella enteritidis (SE) outbreak linked to contaminated shell eggs produced by Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa. In an announcement issued today from the agency, the investigation has expanded to all five of the company’s farms and an initial team of 10 investigators have been deployed to inspect and determine the source of the contamination.

"Wright County Egg is fully cooperating with FDA's investigation by undertaking this voluntary recall," the company said in a statement. "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."

Thousands Reporting Salmonella Sickness to the CDC

In a separate announcement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of people across the nation have reported symptoms of salmonella poisoning, and the toll is rising.

For the three months ending in July (May, June, July), there were 1953 cases of salmonella enteritidis sickness reported to the CDC. The usual number of cases for that period of time would be around 700. This could mean that 1200 people – or more – could have salmonellosis from contaminated eggs, according to Dr. Christopher Braden, acting director of the CDC’s division of food-borne, waterborne, and environmental diseases.

Of course, not everyone who becomes ill will report their symptoms to their local health department, so the toll could be higher than estimated. There is also a two to three week lag time between when a person becomes sick and when the case gets reported to the system, said Braden.

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"We would certainly characterize this as one of the largest shell egg recalls in recent history," Sherri McGarry of the Food and Drug Administration said in a conference call Thursday. According to Patrick McDonough of the Cornell University School of Medicine, eggs are not known for being a major source of infection in humans for this particular strain of salmonella.

The FDA’s new egg safety ruling, which became effective on July 9, 2010, regulates producers with more than 50,000 laying hens (about 80% of the market). These egg producers are required to have a written Salmonella enteritidis prevention plan. The FDA estimates that this could reduce salmonella infection from eggs by nearly 60%.

"The outbreak could have been prevented." McGarry said. "The egg safety rule is in a phase-in approach, but there are measures that would have been in place that could have prevented this if it [had] been placed earlier than in July."

If you suspect that you have or have had salmonella poisoning related to an egg produced by Wright County Egg, please contact your local health department. Symptoms for salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, which typically begin within 12 to 72 hours after consumption according to the CDC. These symptoms last about four to seven days, and then go away without specific treatment in healthy people.

If you still have eggs from one of the recalled brands in your home, you are encouraged to throw them away or returning them to the place of purchase for a full refund. While cooking can kill Salmonella, it is just not worth the risk.

For more on the 2010 Nationwide Egg Recall, please read:
New Egg Recall, What Should You Do?
Egg Recall List Keeps Getting Bigger
Comprehensive List of Eggs and Brands Involved in Recall

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