Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Was Egg Farm Aware of Salmonella Before Outbreak?

According to congressional investigators, Wright County Egg, the Iowa company at the center of a half billion egg recall tied to more than 1,500 cases of Salmonella, had received hundreds of positive tests for the bacteria since 2008.

Documents released yesterday reveal that between 2008 and 2010 the company had received 426 positive test results for Salmonella contamination at its egg facilities, 73 of which were “potentially positive” for Salmonella enteritidis, the strain of the bacteria linked to the multistate outbreak.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter yesterday to the company’s owner, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, asking that he come prepared to explain why his company’s facilities tested positive, what actions his company took to address the contamination, and whether the positive results were shared with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or other federal or state food safety officials.

DeCoster is scheduled to testify in a hearing on the egg recall the committee is hosting next week, along with Orlando Bethel, president of Hillandale Farms of Iowa, the second company involved in the egg recall, and Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at FDA. DeCoster is likely to face tough questions from lawmakers, especially in light of his long history of violating health, safety, animal cruelty, and environmental laws. According to a company spokesperson, DeCoster has agreed to cooperate with lawmakers during the hearing.
    
The full text of the letter and dozens of environmental sample reports, are available on the committee’s website here

© Food Safety News
  • Maybe some were broken and pasteurized as there is laboratory evidence that the strain of salmonella enteritidis that caused the Bullock’s Bar-B-Que outbreak in late April was identical to a strain found at Wright County Egg. See http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/08/20/637008/illness-at-bullocks-traced-to.html.

  • Jess C. Rajan, Ph.D.

    In the 1990s, a salmonella surveillance program for pasteurized egg products was transferred from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The AMS marketing regulations and procedures were then copy/pasted from the 7 CFR into the 9 CFR. Therefore, the FSIS (9 CFR) regulations still specify the USDA marketing agency’s organizational structures (e.g. AMS Grading Branch and AMS Science Division) and procedures.
    9 CFR § 590.580 (b): “To assure adequate pasteurization, pasteurized egg products and heat treated dried egg whites shall be sampled and analyzed for the presence of Salmonellae in accordance with such sequence, frequency, and approved laboratory methods as prescribed by the AMS Science Division Director. The samples of pasteurized egg products and heat treated dried egg whites shall be drawn from the final packaged form.”
    9 CFR § 590.580 (d): “USDA will draw confirmation samples and submit them to a AMS Science Division laboratory at USDA’s expense to determine the adequacy of the plant’s tests and analyses.”
    FSIS Directive 10,230.4 dated 08/06/1996 contains procedural information on the salmonella surveillance program for pasteurized liquid and frozen egg products:
    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/10230-4.pdf
    According to FSIS Directive 8840.1 (06/18/1999) — Enforcement of Refrigeration and Labeling Requirements for Shell Eggs Packed for Consumer Use:
    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/8840-1.pdf
    Role of AMS: “All producer-packers that have more than 3,000 hens and all grading stations are subject to AMS surveillance inspections. Therefore, all plants that are covered by this regulation are covered by AMS surveillance inspection.”
    Role of FSIS: “After AMS notifies an ADME of significant or repeated violations of the refrigeration or labeling regulations at producer-packers or grading stations, the ADME or other appropriate FSIS program employee determines whether follow-up visits to the producer-packers or grading stations are necessary, or whether other action is appropriate.”
    It is not clear how many repeated violations are “significant” for food safety.

  • Maybe some were broken and pasteurized as there is laboratory evidence that the strain of salmonella enteritidis that caused the Bullock’s Bar-B-Que outbreak in late April was identical to a strain found at Wright County Egg. See http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/08/20/637008/illness-at-bullocks-traced-to.html.