Salmonella Back At Iowa Egg Farm

Salmonella is back at an Iowa egg farm that promised to clean up its act in 2010 following a massive outbreak of the sometimes-deadly food borne pathogen.

Following a recent government safety inspection, Salmonella Heidelberg was discovered in two of the farm’s barns, said the Des Moines Register. Centrum Valley Farms said in a statement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered the pathogen in two of its six poultry houses tested at its Clarion production facility during a routine inspection this May.

Centrum Valley Farms said that the presence of Salmonella did not mean its eggs were tainted, but did divert an unspecified number of eggs from the market “in the interest of egg safety,” according to the Des Moines Register. Centrum Valley Farms also said the diverted eggs were withheld until they tested negative for Salmonella four times and were approved for sale by the FDA.

The plant was just one in of a number in northern Iowa implicated in the 2010 outbreak  that resulted in a massive egg recall involving over 500 million eggs, nationwide; at least 2,000 consumers were sickened. The plant, originally owned and controlled by egg magnate, Jack DeCoster, had long had issues with food safety, labor, and environmental violations. Centrum Valley Farms assumed management of DeCoster’s Iowa operations in 2011, promising to improve them, said the Des Moines Register.

In a warning letter dated August 14, signed by John Thorsky, director of FDA’s Kansas City regional office, the agency expressed concern over the presence of Salmonella Heidelberg in Centrum Valley Farms’ poultry houses, explaining that the pathogen could enter chickens’ organs, contaminating their eggs, said the Des Moines Register. Centrum Valley Chief Operating Officer, Steve Boomsma, said in his statement that the firm was working on responding to the agency’s findings, which also included a number of deficiencies in Centrum Valley’s Salmonella testing and prevention plan. In its letter, FDA noted that Centrum Valley had promised several improvements, and that its inspectors would be looking for verification of them during their next visit.

Centrum Valley promised to hire new management teams to improve egg safety and environmental, animal care, and disease prevention program compliance. The farm also said its eggs are sold at major retailers, nationwide, under an array of brand names; however, it would not name its customers, said the Des Moines Register. Meanwhile, the FDA, in its warning, stated it found “serious violations” of rules implemented in 2010 to prevent Salmonella in the production, storage, and transport of shell eggs, including mandatory Salmonella testing at various production states.

As we’ve explained, an FDA rule went into effect July 2010 mandating egg producers that discover Salmonella in their poultry houses to conduct additional testing over several weeks and destroy the pathogen, or move the eggs to non-food use.

The FDA also said the farm’s contract technician was not collecting sufficient testing samples, that it neglected to maintain records indicating compliance with refrigeration requirements, and that it was using an incomplete Salmonella prevention plan, the Des Moines Register noted. Centrum Valley has 15 working days to outline its corrective plan and prevent recurrence of the issues.

By late April 2010, scientists found that nearly half—43 percent–of the former DeCoster’s Iowa poultry houses tested positive for Salmonella; at that time, DeCoster managers noticed that chickens were dying at high rates.

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