Ohio Fresh Eggs knew its product had tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), but 798 cases of eggs that should have been treated for the bacteria were instead shipped to the nation’s largest distributor of shell eggs, Cal-Maine Foods.

For that, the Johnstown, OH-based egg producer received a Feb. 25 warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Ohio Fresh, in a response published in the Des Moines Register, said eggs from one barn had been shipped accidentally: “In the process of reviewing records with FDA during their inspection, it was determined that due to human error, a shipment of eggs from one barn mistakenly was allowed to ship to a customer. Our farm cooperated fully with FDA to ensure a swift and complete recall of those eggs from our customer, and we are thankful no illnesses were reported.” 

The FDA warning letter to Ohio Fresh stated: “Your firm became aware of the first SE-positive egg test result on Oct. 4, 2010. However, your firm shipped 798 cases of eggs from (egg) House (b) (4), on Oct.  7, 2010 to a table egg processor, rather than an egg treatment facility.”

FDA investigators, who arrived at Ohio Fresh on Nov. 2, discovered the SE-contaminated eggs had been shipped and alerted Cal-Maine, a company that produces, grades, packs, and sells table eggs in 29 states

By that time Cal-Maine, which received the SE-contaminated eggs for processing and re-packaging between Oct. 9 and 12, 2010, had already distributed the bad eggs to Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. It was forced to recall the 24,000 dozen eggs on Nov. 5, 2010.

According to FDA, Ohio Fresh should have diverted the SE-contaminated eggs to treatment in order to achieve a 5-log reduction of SE, –5 log reduction means the number of germs is100,000 times smaller after treatment.

FDA also cited Ohio Fresh for failure to label the pallet, case or other shipping container that contained the eggs that should have been diverted for treatment. They should have carried labels saying,  “Federal law requires that these eggs must be treated to achieve at least a 5-log destruction of Salmonella Enteritidis…”

In total, FDA found 13 samples from four egg layer sites that were positive for Salmonella.  It said Ohio Fresh was in “serious violation” of federal egg rules, causing its products to be adulterated.  The warning letter said other federal agencies might take the violation into account when awarding contracts.