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People throughout the country routinely start their morning with a breakfast consisting of eggs. Eggs are also a key ingredient in dishes served in restaurants throughout the country. That is why news of an egg recall was alarming to millions of consumers, retail food stores and restaurants.

Since May 2010, the CDC has identified a sustained nationwide increase in Salmonella Entiriditis infections. The CDC received reports of nearly four times as many cases every week during late June and early July as compared to reports each week during the past five years. Investigations conducted by public health officials in multiple states suggested that patrons had become ill at several restaurants with shell eggs as the likely source of the infections.

After the CDC’s report, the FDA, working in conjunction with the CDC and state partners, conducted traceback investigations. Investigators found that many of the restaurants reporting infections had received their eggs from two sources, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, both located in Iowa. The FDA then issued 483 reports to both companies. These reports are conducted when investigators observe any significant objectionable conditions. FDA investigators observed that Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms had failed to fully implement and follow procedures in its Salmonella Enterditis Prevention Plan. Some examples at both farms included employees’ failure to clean and sanitize equipment, observation of live flies around egg belts and failure to eliminate entryways for rodents.

The final implications of the recall are yet to be determined, but Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms subsequently conducted nationwide voluntary recalls. The damage was far-reaching. In total, more than 500 million eggs were involved in the recall. Wright County and Hillandale Farms informed the FDA that they will refrain from shipping shell eggs until the FDA determines the eggs are safe for consumption. In addition, the 483 report does not constitute a final Agency determination and it will be considered, along with an Establishment Inspection Report, in determining what further action, if any, is appropriate.

An egg recall of this magnitude does not inspire confidence amongst consumers, retailers or restaurants. It is too early to determine the overall impact of this recall, but it surely will require additional safety procedures be implemented by Wright County Egg, Hillandale Farms and other companies not taking proper precautions. Consumers might now think twice before purchasing eggs or eating an egg-based meal when they order at a restaurant.

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