Nothing causes more consumer confusion than the recall of a couple hundred million eggs by a significant producer. It brings out much befuddlement as retail egg buyers have to sort out Julian dates, brands, lot numbers, plant numbers and distribution channels.

Worse than the confusion is that when people find eggs they have bad eggs on hand, they not only need to be tossed out, they also have to clean their refrigerators and kitchen surfaces.

Federal food detectives, however, have solved the case of the current Salmonella outbreak linked to shell eggs. They’ve conclusively proved the outbreak strain originated at the Rose Acre Farms egg production facility in Hyde County, NC. It is one of 17 Rose Acre egg facilities in eight states.

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Food Safety News asked Rose Acre Farms if it wanted to comment on developments since it announced the recall, but, through a spokesman, the company decline the opportunity.

The Salmonella Braenderup outbreak that has caused at least 23 illnesses in nine states is bringing particular attention to Rose Acre Farms, the nation’s second-largest egg producer. The multistate outbreak has sent six people to hospitals.

Headquartered in the southern Indiana town of Seymour, the privately-held Rose Acre Farms operates egg production facilities in Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina and Georgia. It employs 2,000 people, and they give good reviews about their Rose Acre jobs except for one policy about not being eligible for bonus pay if an employee is just one minute late in showing up for work.

Rose Acres was making a different kind of news shortly before current the Salmonella Braenderup outbreak. It’s been adding cage-free egg facilities at such a rapid pace that it expects to be No. 1 in cage-free egg production by the end of 2018.

The nation’s egg producers are responding in different ways, but a “blue chip” list of restaurant and retail chains have pledged to be “cage free” by 2020. Since meeting that demand will likely fetch higher prices, Rose Acres is not alone in investing in cage-free housing.

It’s not yet known what type of housing Rose Acres provides its North Carolina hens.

Rose Acres says it is “making a loop back to its roots.” From the time it started in the 1930s through 1966, it says no Rose Acre hen ever saw the inside of a cage. It closed its last cage free house of that era in 1976, opting for inline cage facilities.

But that changed again in 2015 when Rose Acre built a 3 million bird, cage-free farm. Since then its been on a cage-free building boom.

Earlier this year, Rose Acre Farms donated $200,000 to Purdue University to help advance cage-free research. The money will help Purdue with the design and construction of layer houses for research into improved socialization of hens.

Rose Acre Farms said the recall involves egg production from its Hyde County, NC, facility, which produces 2.3 million eggs a day from 3 million laying hens.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspected the North Carolina facility and collected samples for testing.

“Laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup in the environmental samples taken at the farm,” CDC reports.

Involved in the 207 million egg recall are Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The North Carolina facility sent eggs to those states under Coburn Farms, Country Daybreak, Crystal Farms, Food Lion, Glenview, Great Value, Nelms and Sunshine Farms brand names.

Further clues to help consumers identify the recalled eggs include the P-1065 plant number and Julian date range of 011 through 102 printed on the cartons or packaging. Julian Dates start with Jan. 1 as 001 and end with Dec. 31 as 365 for the consecutive days of the year. The number system is sometimes used on egg cartons to denote the day the eggs are packed. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) assigns plant number for inspection.

The CDC’s initial outbreak report says epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback evidence all pointed to the Rose Acre facility in North Carolina as the source of the outbreak. FDA traced some restaurant eggs that made people sick to that Rose Farms facility.

Eggs and egg dishes consumed at restaurants appear to account for 65 percent of the illnesses so far. The age range of the victims is 5 to 90 years , with55 percent being males.

Cal-Maine Foods got caught up in the recall because it purchased “one load” or 23,400 dozen eggs from Rose Acre Farms for repackaging, a typical food industry practice. Those “potentially affected eggs” were distributed in Florida and included:

Product Description UPC Lot Number Best By
PUBLIX GRADE A extra large EGGS 18PK 0 41415 00966 0 P1359D 048A
P1359D 049A
APR 02
APR 03
SUNUPS GRADE A LARGE EGGS 18PK 0 28621 36398 4 P1359D 049A APR 03
P1359D 049A
APR 02
APR 03
P1359D 049A
APR 02
APR 03

The Rose Acre Farms egg recall is the largest since 2010 when two Iowa egg farms responsible for a nationwide Salmonella outbreak called back 550 million table eggs.

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled eggs and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the bacteria.

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria. However, in some people it takes two weeks for symptoms to develop. Symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually last for four to seven days.

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness.

Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and not get sick or show any symptoms, but they are still be able to spread the infection to others.

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