Wright County Egg Settles With Salmonella Victims

Following last year’s massive Salmonella outbreak that sickened about 1,900 people, began in July 2010, and involved a nationwide recall of 550 million eggs, Wright County Egg is settling with Salmonella victims.

The New York Daily News wrote that dozens of those sickened in the dangerous foodborne illness outbreak will receive compensation, including two six-figure settlements to be paid to two children. This, in the first phase of settlements with the egg producer, said The Associated Press (AP).

The outbreak was linked to eggs supplied by Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa. Wright County Egg reached settlements in a September 14 mediation with about 40 Salmonella victims, according to both sides involved in the case, said The Daily News. Wright County Egg’s insurer, Selective Insurance, will be handling payouts. Although settlement details are confidential, some information just became public after an Iowa judge approved deals for $366,000 for children from Texas, California, and Iowa who were hospitalized as a result of the contamination, said The Daily News.

At the time and for the most part, regulators blamed Wright County Egg, which sold its chickens and feed to Hillandale, said The Daily News. More illnesses were linked to eggs that originated at Wright County and the firm had also been cited for a number of violations. Salmonella was found at both farms along with chicken carcasses, insects, vermin, and filthy conditions that included huge piles of manure, The Daily News wrote. A congressional investigation revealed that the Salmonella pathogen was detected over 400 times in Wright County eggs from 2008 to 2010.

As we’ve written, the recall was the largest egg recall in United States history and ultimately shed light on how food in the U.S. is regulated. The federal government, which was spared a probe on the issue, did indicate—20 years ago—that Salmonella in eggs presents a public health threat. It took some time after the massive recall initiated for the government to issue its first rule on safe egg production. Although the rule is in effect, monitoring remains an issue. Now, farmers must purchase certified Salmonella-free chickens and test chickens when eggs are being laid. Should a test result turn up positive for Salmonella, whole egg sales must be stopped.

There have also been issues with egg production safety because eggs are the responsibility of both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Over 15 federal agencies and 71 interagency agreements are involved in food safety oversight. Public health and government accountability analysts say it is this sort of fragmentation that deteriorates monitoring, creates issues with over-taxation due to monitoring redundancies, and leads to oversight gaps.

It seems that the egg industry—a $4.4 billion business—had been hoping for rules for some time, as have consumer groups and public health experts. The government had not regulated eggs in two decades, stalling the rules in both the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. While the rules are now in place, implementation occurred too late to avoid the historic outbreak.

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