A 10-state Salmonella Braenderup outbreak associated with the largest egg recall since 2010 is apparently over, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Originally announced April 16 as a nine-state incident with 23 illnesses, the outbreak ended up with 45 confirmed cases in 10 states with 11 of the sick people requiring hospitalization. It did not involve any deaths.
Shortly before the original CDC announcement, Seymore, IN-based Rose Acre Farms recalled almost 207 million eggs from its Hyde Country, NC, egg production facility. Three days later, on April 16, Cal-Maine Foods recalled 23,400 dozen eggs it had purchased from Rose Acre.
That was also the same day the CDC linked the outbreak strain of S. Braenderup to the Rose Acre Farms shell eggs associated with the recall. CDC declared the outbreak over on Thursday (June 14).
Rose Acre, the nation’s second-largest egg producer, did not get through the outbreak and recall without controversy.
Before the outbreak, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors found the North Carolina egg production facilities were marked by rodent activity and poor worker hygiene. FDA was on site from March 26 to April 11, and filed reports saying the rodent activity and dirty equipment were “unacceptable.”
FDA inspectors observed employees touching dirty floors, dirty equipment and their own bodies and returning to work without washing their hands. FDA said the conditions they found allow “for the harborage, proliferation, and spread of filth and pathogens.”
FDA inspectors observed dozens of live and dead rodents, including baby mice in the chicken houses and manure pits and employees skipping steps in the cleaning processes. They also saw condensation dripping on crack detectors, egg graders, and other production equipment. Water was also allowed to pool on floors and forklift pathways.
FDA also reported farm workers touched their own “intergluteal cleft,” which means their butts, another finding that was less than comforting.
North Carolina is one of Rose Acre’s 17 egg production centers in eight states. The company’s North Carolina egg facility in Hyde County produces about 2.3 million eggs a day, which means the recall was for about 90 days worth of production.
While not as politically hot as 2010’s 550 million egg recall by two Iowa egg farms then owned by Austin (Jack) DeCoster, FDA did come under questioning about Rose Acre Farms by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, co-chair of the Congressional Food Safety Caucus.
DeLauro, D-CT, wrote FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on May 22, demanding an update on the Rose Acre Farms situation. She wanted to know if FDA was inspecting other Rose facilities and what was being done about the unsanitary conditions in Hyde County.
As for outbreak illnesses, most were concentrated on the East Coast. Victims had illness onset date from Nov. 16, 2017, through May 13 this year. Ill people ranged in age from one to 90 years of age with the median age coming in at 60. Fifty-six (56) percent were female.
Testing of three clinical isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing methods by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory did not show any resistance. Whole genome sequencing of 27 clinical and seven environmental isolates also did not predict resistance to antibiotics on the NARMS panel.
The Rose Acre Farms Hyde County egg production facility was found to be the likely source of the multistate outbreak by epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence. Those sickened reported, in overwhelming numbers, eating eggs or egg products before becoming ill.
The contaminated eggs were sold at retail in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Major outbreaks are a good time for consumers to refresh their knowledge of food safety and eggs. Here’s CDC’s guidance:
Consumers and restaurants should handle and cook eggs safely to avoid foodborne illness from raw eggs. It is important to handle and prepare all fresh eggs and egg products carefully.
- Eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
- Wash hands and items that came into contact with raw eggs—including countertops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards—with soap and water.
- Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where recalled eggs were stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
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