The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Egg Recall Update

Egg Recall Update

Food Safety Update

August 29, 2010

Since May 2010, there have been 1,953 reported cases of Salmonella Enteritidis in 10 states. The reported illnesses are thought to have come from the consumption of contaminated shell eggs. Preliminary information indicates that the Iowa-based company, Wright Country Egg, may have been the supplier in the majority of reported cases. The FDA is currently conducting an investigation into the company and looking into potential sources of contamination, such as feed.

Wright County Egg called for a nationwide voluntary recall of shell eggs on August 13, 2010. The recall was expanded on August 18, 2010. Eggs affected by the recall were distributed to foodservice companies and food wholesalers in 17 states. They were packaged under brand names such as Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps in varying sizes of cartons. Consumers with potentially affected items have been asked to throw away the product or return it to the store.

Some illnesses may not have been reported yet. It is also likely that some of the reported cases may not be connected to this current outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would’ve expected that the actual number of illnesses, based on numbers from the past five years of reported outbreaks, would have come in around 700 during the same time period.

This is the largest outbreak of Salmonella in eggs in recent history, but even so, it involves only a fraction of the 75 billion eggs produced each year. In July, 2010, the new final rule for egg safety went into effect and requires egg producers to take preventative measures throughout the production process. One of the rule requirements is that egg producers with fewer than 50,000 but at least 3,000 laying hens must process their eggs with a treatment, such as pasteurization, by July 9, 2012. According to the FDA, implementing preventive measures like this one would reduce the number of Salmonella Enteritidis infections from eggs by nearly 60%.

Forty years ago, the implementation of egg inspections and shell washing helped decrease some Salmonella concerns. More modern concerns revolve around the very real threat of passing Salmonella from infected hens to growing eggs, especially within a tightly packed hen house. Activist groups worldwide have been pushing lawmakers to limit the future caging of hens as a result. For example, the EU will ban small cages in 2012. In California, small cages will become illegal in 2015. 

Persons infected with Salmonella usually develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, with the illness lasting four to seven days. Severe cases can even result in death. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to develop the illness after exposure. Antibiotic treatment may be necessary in certain cases.

To prevent illness, retailers can advise their customers to avoid eating recalled eggs or items containing recalled eggs. They can also encourage consumers to store their eggs at ≤45 degrees F at all times, and to discard any cracked or dirty eggs. Additionally, the eating of raw eggs should always be avoided. Consumers should avoid eating dishes at restaurants that include undercooked or raw, unpasteurized eggs as well. After contact with raw eggs, hands and cooking utensils should be washed. Another tip? Cooking eggs thoroughly can help kill the Salmonella bacteria, and it’s best to cook the egg until both the white and yolk are firm.

U.S egg production in April 2010 was 6.47 billion table eggs, up from 6.41 billion during the same period in 2009. In 2009, the average number of egg laying hens in the U.S. was 280 million. Currently, the top 10 egg producing states are Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Florida. The U.S. produces 10% of the world’s eggs. China produces about half the world’s supply at nearly 390 billion eggs annually.


For a full list of recent Salmonella outbreaks, including those associated with eggs, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/outbreaks.html.