August 19, 2010
State health officials have linked a salmonella outbreak that sickened 21 diners at a Kenosha restaurant in June to the nationwide recall of 228 million eggs by an Iowa producer. And the first lawsuit against the egg company was filed Wednesday in Kenosha County Circuit Court by one of the ill diners.
Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa, on Friday issued a voluntary nationwide recall of eggs it had shipped since May 19 to food wholesalers, distribution centers and foodservice companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Those companies distribute nationwide, reselling eggs under various brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.
The affected cartons - which still may be in stores, restaurants and homes - come in varying sizes and carry plant numbers P1026, P1413 and P1946, followed by a date code ranging from 136 to 225.
The stamps with the date codes and plant numbers can be found on the end of the egg carton.
The federal Food and Drug Administration said consumers who have recalled eggs should discard them or return them to their retailer for a refund. Individuals who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should contact a doctor.
Minnesota has reported seven illnesses and California has reported 266 illnesses associated with the outbreak. Wisconsin has 21 confirmed cases, all from the Kenosha restaurant, which used eggs from the Iowa company, Seth Boffeli, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said Wednesday.
Additional, isolated cases still are under investigation, he said.
A Pleasant Prairie woman who says she was sickened after eating a Cobb salad at the Baker Street Restaurant and Pub in Kenosha on June 18 has filed suit.
She's represented by the same Seattle-based food safety law firm that represented the family of a 3-year-old South Milwaukee girl who died in 2000 after eating watermelon tainted with the O157:H7 strain of E. coli at a Sizzler restaurant, which closed after that outbreak.
Tanja Dzinovic's gastrointestinal symptoms began three days after dining at the Kenosha restaurant, according to the suit, which was originally filed in July.
The complaint was amended Wednesday to add Wright County Egg as a defendant after DNA analysis of salmonella bacteria obtained from stool samples linked Dzinovic's illness to the outbreak, according to attorney Bill Marler.
Boiling the eggs in the Cobb salad presumably killed the bacteria in the eggs, Marler said, "so there may have been a cross-contamination issue in the restaurant" either with contaminated raw eggs that came into contact with another salad ingredient, or improper hand washing by an employee who handled contaminated eggs.
Salmonella is an infectious bacteria that causes fever, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea in healthy adults but potentially fatal infections in kids, older adults and those with compromised immune systems.
An investigation into the outbreak began after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May noted it was seeing four times the normal number of cases of salmonella enteritidis with a specific genetic pattern nationwide.
The CDC uploaded the information to PulseNet, a national sub-typing network of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories.
Investigators are using DNA analysis of salmonella bacteria obtained through stool samples to identify cases that may be part of the outbreak.
Other cases possible
While the Kenosha County Health Department confirmed 28 cases of salmonella last month, only 21 have been connected to consumption of tainted eggs, or cross-contamination from the eggs, said Boffeli, of the state Department of Health Services.
Boffeli said a handful of other cases around the state may be connected to the tainted eggs, but Kenosha so far has the only cluster of cases.
The CDC cautions that for every case of salmonella reported, another 38 to 40 never make the official tallies.
Dzinovic's symptoms became significantly worse over four days, until she sought medical treatment at a hospital, according to her lawsuit.
Diane Bosovich, the assistant director of nursing at the Kenosha County Health Department, said the Baker Street Restaurant and Pub was briefly closed in July to test employees once the apparent source of the outbreak was identified.
The bacterial infection causes symptoms about 12 hours to three days after infection, according to Bosovich.
The Milwaukee Health Department has no confirmed cases of salmonella tied to the outbreak, according to spokeswoman Kawanza Newson
The federal Food and Drug Administration issued the following advice for consumers in the wake of a salmonella outbreak connected to tainted eggs from one of the nation's largest egg producers in Iowa:
• Keep shell eggs refrigerated at 45 degrees at all times.
• Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
• Wash hands, cooking utensils and food preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
• Eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm and eaten promptly after cooking.
• Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
• Refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods promptly.
• Avoid eating raw eggs.
• Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing) that calls for raw eggs.
• Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, older people and people with weakened immune systems or debilitating illnesses.