August 18, 2010
Food safety experts expect the number of cases of salmonella from pathogen-tainted eggs to increase as millions of additional eggs are being recalled from an Iowa egg producer.
Several hundred people have been reported sickened by the eggs, and the first lawsuit was filed today by a consumer who says she ate bad eggs, AOL News has learned.
Initially, cases of Salmonella enteritidis were reported in California, Colorado and Minnesota, but the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and state health officials are now investigating salmonella outbreaks in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
Wright County Eggs in Galt, Iowa, one of the nation's largest egg producers, initially recalled 228 million eggs, which were distributed nationwide.
Tuesday, NuCal Foods of Ripon, Calif., recalled millions of eggs it had purchased from the Iowa company and was distributing in California and Nevada.
The recall comes despite new FDA standards designed to prevent salmonella outbreaks.
Wright County initially said the eggs in the recall were sold under the labels of Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.
NuCal added Bayview, Mountain Dairy, NuLay and Sun Valley to the list of consumer brands.
"This recall is just the latest example of how the consolidation of food production can impact consumers. As facilities raising food animals get bigger and bigger, a problem at one operation can put consumers across the country at risk for problems like salmonella," Patty Lovera, assistant director of the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, told AOL News this morning.
The illnesses have been developing rapidly since early June, with more than 300 cases of this strain of salmonella being reported. This is four times the number of cases normally reported, the CDC says, but the agency cautions that for every case of salmonella reported, another 38 to 40 never make the official tallies.
The first of what is likely to be many lawsuits was filed today against Wright County Eggs and a restaurant in Kenosha, Wis.
The suit brought by the Seattle-based law firm of Marler Clark alleges that a woman consumed a Cobb salad containing eggs at a Kenosha restaurant in July and soon after was hospitalized with Salmonella enteritidis.
Consumers buy the eggs in cartons holding six, 12 or 18 eggs, but restaurants and institutional users bought boxes containing hundreds.
With current government trace-back requirements, it's often difficult, if not impossible, to track precisely where the eggs have been sold.
Recalled eggs might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, institutional kitchens and consumers' homes.
The FDA says that egg-associated illness caused by salmonella is a serious public health problem and that 79,000 cases of food-borne illness and 30 deaths are caused each year by consumption of eggs contaminated with the enteritidis strain.
The food safety agency urges consumers and commercial uses to carefully examine eggs they may have in their refrigerators, especially any eggs purchased between May 16 and Aug. 13.
Federal food safety agencies urge consumers :
* Not to eat recalled eggs or products containing recalled eggs and warn that recalled eggs might still be in grocery stores, restaurants or homes.
* To keep shell eggs refrigerated at less than 45 degrees at all times; discard cracked or dirty eggs; and do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
* To avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs, such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing, which call for raw eggs. Eggs that have been pasteurized are fine for these uses.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis or arthritis, the CDC says.