Salmonella Egg Producers Receive More Attention from Feds

Federal agents paid another visit to Iowa’s Wright County Egg (also known as Quality Egg) and Hillandale Farms, two egg producers being blamed for a nationwide outbreak of <"">Salmonella. According to the Associated Press, it is not known what the agents were doing there.

Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms have recalled more than half a billion eggs due to a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis. According to the Centers for Disease Control (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 the Associated Press, a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) spokesperson and an assistant U.S. attorney for Iowa confirmed the presence of the agents at Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, but would not say what agency they worked for. It is not known if the new investigation is the first step in a criminal probe, but as the Associated Press report points out, the FDA has the authority to coordinate with the Justice Department on criminal investigations involving adulterated food.

This is not the first time federal officials have been to the egg producers in connection with the Salmonella outbreak. Yesterday, we reported that last month, FDA inspectors visited six farms operated by Wright County Egg/ Quality Egg, and three Hillandale Farms locations. According to 483 reports detailing the visits, inspectors found a number of problems that could have led to contaminated eggs, such as bug and animal infestations, and an 8 foot manure pit at one farm.

According to the Associated Press, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, the owner of Wright County Egg, has a spotty history when it comes to complying with regulations. He has already paid millions of dollars in state and federal fines over the years for health, safety, immigration and environmental violations.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the companies involved in the Salmonella egg debacle have begun pointing fingers in attempt to assign blame for the outbreak. Wright County Egg, for example, suggested the contamination might have come from a feed ingredient, bone meal, supplied by another company. Not surprisingly, that firm, Central Bi-Products of Redwood Falls, Minn., strongly disagreed and said its heat-processed bone meal was untainted when it was shipped.

As the Journal pointed out, the August FDA inspection of Wright County Egg/Quality Egg uncovered storage bins for feed and feed ingredients that had multiple problems which could have led to contamination. Some bins were rusted, porous and exposed to live birds and bird feces, and the FDA said rodents, a major source of Salmonella, appeared to have access to many parts of the barn where the feed was kept, the Journal said.

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