Egg Farms Face Inspections in Wake of Salmonella Outbreak

Large egg farms throughout the country are to be inspected by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) next month, following a massive, multi-state <"">Salmonella outbreak linked to shell eggs. Meanwhile, one lawmaker has asked both the FDA and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to explain an apparent delay in public notification about a recall of eggs linked to the Salmonella outbreak.

As we’ve been reporting, more than a half billion eggs distributed by Iowa’s Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms have been recalled due to the outbreak. According to the CDC, it has received a total of 2,403 reports of Salmonella Enteritidis around the U.S. from May 1 to August 25, 2010. The agency said it would normally expect approximately 933 total illnesses during this same period. This means that there are approximately 1,470 reported illnesses that are likely to be associated with tainted eggs, according to the CDC. The same Salmonella strain associated with the outbreak was subsequently identified in environmental samples at Wright County Egg and in feed used by both Wright and Hillandale.

According to an Associated Press report published over the weekend, FDA inspectors will visit about 600 large egg farms that produce 80 percent of the nation’s eggs. The information was provided by an anonymous Obama administration official, according to the report.

The new inspection plan, which is set to begin in September, targets farms that have 50,000 or more hens, the Associated Press said. Inspectors will be looking for safety violations that could increase the chance of Salmonella entering the egg supply.

The FDA has said previously that it had not inspected either Wright County Egg or Hillandale Farms prior to the outbreak and recalls. The egg farm inspections scheduled for next month will be conducted under new rules the FDA enacted last month to prevent Salmonella in shell eggs, the Associated Press said.

In other news, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, has written to both the FDA and CDC with questions about how the public was notified of the Salmonella outbreak. The letter, dated last Thursday, points out that Wright County Egg had posted a notice about a voluntary egg recall on the FDA Web site on August 13, a Friday, but the first formal public announcement of the outbreak did not come until the CDC posted a notice on its Web site the following Monday.

“Between the initial company press release on Friday and the CDC announcement the following Monday, it was possible for many consumers to purchase recalled eggs over the weekend, which is when many Americans do their grocery shopping,” the letter said. “Also, because of the absence of any CDC guidance, many more may have consumed recalled eggs over the weekend.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, announced Thursday that a separate House subcommittee will hold hearings September 14 on the safety of the nation’s food supply. The subcommittee has requested inspection reports and notices of any violations, among other documents, from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms.

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