Number of Illnesses Linked to Eggs Will Likely Grow

By: MARY CLARE JALONICK, AP Email
By: MARY CLARE JALONICK, AP Email

More than a half-billion eggs have been recalled in the nationwide investigation of a salmonella outbreak that Friday expanded to include a second Iowa farm. The outbreak has already sickened more than 1,000 people and the toll of illnesses is expected to increase.

Iowa's Hillandale Farms said Friday it was recalling more than
170 million eggs after laboratory tests confirmed salmonella. The
company did not say if its action was connected to the recall by
Wright County Egg, another Iowa farm that recalled 380 million eggs
earlier this week. The latest recall puts the total number of
potentially tainted eggs at about 550 million.

FDA spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy said the two recalls are related.
The strain of salmonella bacteria causing the poisoning is the same
in both cases, salmonella enteritidis.

Federal officials say it's one of the largest egg recalls in
recent history. Americans consume about 220 million eggs a day,
based on industry estimates. Iowa is the leading egg producing
state.

The eggs recalled Friday were distributed under the brand names
Hillandale Farms, Sunny Farms, Sunny Meadow, Wholesome Farms and
West Creek. The new recall applies to eggs sold between April and
August.

Hillandale said the eggs were distributed to grocery
distribution centers, retail groceries and food service companies
which service or are located in fourteen states, including
Arkansas, California, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota,
Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and
Wisconsin.

Thoroughly cooking eggs can kill the bacteria. But health
officials are recommending people throw away or return the recalled
eggs.

A food safety expert at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said
the source of the outbreak could be rodents, shipments of
contaminated hens, or tainted feed. Microbiology professor Patrick
McDonough said he was not surprised to hear about two recalls
involving different egg companies, because in other outbreaks there
have also been multiple sources.

Both plants could have a rodent problem, or both plants could
have gotten hens that were already infected, or feed that was
contaminated.

"You need biosecurity of the hen house, you want a rodent
control program and you want to have hens put into that environment
that are salmonella free," McDonough said.

The salmonella bacteria is not passed from hen to hen, but
usually from rodent droppings to chickens, he added. This strain of
bacteria is found inside a chicken's ovaries, and gets inside an
egg.

CDC officials said Thursday that the number of illnesses related
to the outbreak is expected to grow. That's because illnesses
occurring after mid-July may not be reported yet, said Dr.
Christopher Braden, an epidemiologist with the federal Centers for
Disease Control.

Almost 2,000 illnesses from the strain of salmonella linked to
both recalls were reported between May and July, almost 1,300 more
than usual, Braden said. No deaths have been reported. The CDC is
continuing to receive information from state health departments as
people report their illnesses.

The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal
cramps and fever within eight hours to 72 hours of eating a
contaminated product. It can be life-threatening, especially to
those with weakened immune systems.

The form of salmonella tied to the outbreak can be passed from
chickens that appear healthy. And it grows inside eggs, not just on
the shell, Braden noted.


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