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Salmonella Heidelberg Found in Iowa Poultry Houses

Site of contamination was source of 2010 Salmonella egg outbreak

The company that took over Iowa’s two most troubled egg businesses now has food safety problems of it own to deal with at its recently acquired facilities.

Centrum Valley Farms acquired all the Iowa egg production facilities formerly operated by Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter — site of the nation’s largest egg recall in 2010 — via a long-term lease in late 2011. Centrum Valley is now being warned about bacteria in two of its six poultry houses located near Clarion, IA.

Iowa’s egg industry — the largest in the nation — was more than relieved when Centrum, owned by three long-time Iowa egg producing families, took over the Iowa properties in DeCoster’s national egg empire.

Wright County Egg Co. near Clarion/Galt, IA and the nearby Hillandale Farms at West Union had to recall more than one half billion eggs in 2010 after contamination at the two facilities was connected to a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis that sickened at least 1,900 people.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors who visited the Centrum facilities between April 30 and May 4 of 2012 discovered Salmonella Heidelberg in the Clarion/Galt poultry houses. On August 14, Centrum Valley Farms received a warning letter from FDA.

The egg company was quick to issue a statement, saying bacteria in the poultry houses do not necessarily mean the eggs are contaminated. It held back eggs from those poultry houses, testing them until it got four negative results and FDA approval before shipping them.

The egg production facilities with the problem are among the same facilities that were previously run by DeCoster (who used Galt, IA. as the address). They were the subjects of previous warning letters before DeCoster gave up the business.

In the new warning letter, John W. Thorsky, director of FDA’s Kansas City district, said Centrum does not have an Salmonella prevention plant that includes sufficient prevention measures, and is inadequate in other areas like dust control as well.

FDA’s main concern, however, is the SH contamination.

“We are concerned about the presence of Salmonella Heidelberg (SH) in your poultry house environment. During the investigation of the 2010 nationwide SE outbreak where an estimated 2,000 people contracted SE, SH was also found on farms which you now operate, Thorsky wrote.

“SH is an organism that can transmit via the transovarian route, in a fashion similar to SE. There is a strong body of scientific evidence indicating the primary risk factor for SH illness is shell eggs.

“Furthermore, SH has caused several egg associated outbreaks resulting in human illness and at times death. Given this body of evidence, FDA considers SH within a poultry house environment to be a public health threat. During the recent investigation, SH was identified in two of the six houses we sampled at the South site. We acknowledge that you have been working with FDA to address this situation.”

Centrum, which had already responded in writing to FDA’s findings, was told to write to FDA again outlining the steps it has taken to correct violations since the inspection.

© Food Safety News
  • Minkpuppy

    These guys had an uphill battle from the start when they bought out DeCoster. It may take years for Centrum to clean up the buildings and fix everything that DeCoster let go for so long. What a freaking mess.
    I hope they stick with it–FDA is going to watch them for a long long time.

  • Phil

    I have worked with companies that had previously had regulatory issues. The first thing I did was contact the governing agencies and outline my plans to correct past problems. I kept good notes on who I spoke to and their responses. A majority of the time I got excellent co-operation and good ideas. My bosses did not always like the intial expenses but they hired me to fix things and I did. Yes, I was a pain in the ___ but, no one has ever said that I did not increase their profit. I strongly believe that doing things correctly leads to a successful and profittable buisness. Without return customers any company is short tem!