Bad Eggs, Dangerous Eggs

By late August of 2010, over 1,300 cases of salmonella poising were reported in the U.S. and over 380 millions eggs were recalled.  The problem was discover when the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) began noticing increases number of Salmonella Enteritidis cases in a number  of states including California, Illinois, Minnesota, and Colorado.  California alone reported over 266 cases of  Salmonella Enteritidis.   The Source of the outbreak was tracked to two Iowa farms (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/business/19eggs.html).    The Food and Drug Administration head, Margaret Hamburg, warned consumers on national television not to eat raw of runny eggs:  “no more runny egg yolks for mopping up with toast”( http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-us-taintedeggs,0,3585038.story).

The primary Iowa farm in the recall is Wright County Eggs.  Here is part of their announcement:

“Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa is voluntarily recalling specific Julian dates of shell eggs produced by their farms because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis or arthritis.

Eggs affected by this recall were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and foodservice companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. These companies distribute nationwide.

Eggs are packaged under the following brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946. Dates and codes can be found stamped on the end of the egg carton. The plant number begins with the letter P and then the number. The Julian date follows the plant number, for example: P-1946 223” (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm222501.htm).”

Wright County Egg is not a stranger to government investigators.  The government has investigates Wright County Egg for environmental violations, unsafe working conditions, and the harassment of workers (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20014080-10391704.html). 

A few news sources included a web link to www.eggsafe.org.  This site is operated by the Egg Safety Center.  They describe themselves as working “with egg producers to provide them with the most up to date information available and are dedicated to educating consumers on proper food handling to reduce the incidence of food-borne illness.”  The site updates a running list of the various brands involved in the recall at http://www.eggsafety.org/mediacenter/press-releases/74-recall-affected-brands-and-descriptions .

Their statement about the recall included these comments:

“All brands, plant numbers and Julian dates are listed in the Brands Affected document found here.

While this recall represents less than 1 percent of all eggs produced in the US, as always recommended by the Egg Safety Center and FDA, raw eggs should be handled and cooked properly with the egg yolks and whites cooked firm. Other egg brands that are not specifically in the recall list are not affected and should be safe to eat. Liquid, frozen, or dried egg products, because they are pasteurized, also are not affected by the recall and should be safe.

The chance of an egg containing Salmonella Enteritidis is rare in the United States. Several years ago, it was estimated that 1 in 20,000 eggs might have been contaminated, which meant most consumers probably wouldn’t come in contact with such an egg but 1 time in 84 years. Since that time most U.S. egg farmers have been employing tougher food safety measures to help protect against food-borne illness. Chief among these methods are modern, sanitary housing systems; stringent rodent control and bio-security controls; inoculation against Salmonella Enteritidis; cleaning and sanitization of poultry houses and farms; and testing” ” http://www.eggsafety.org/mediacenter/alerts/84-voluntary-egg-recall-expanded-less-than-one-percent-of-all-us-eggs-affected

The Egg Safety Center is operated by the United Egg Producers.  The United Egg Producers define themselves as “a Capper-Volstead cooperative of egg farmers from all across the United States and representing the ownership of approximately 95% of all the nation’s egg-laying hens.”  Their web site refers visitors to the Egg Safety Center for more information about eggs and food safety.  The American Egg Board (http://www.aeb.org/) , the egg industry’s promotional arm, has a link on their home page to the Egg Safety Center for recall information.  The Egg Safety Center represents the egg industry’s response to the product harm crisis and recall effort.

Questions to Consider

  1.  How does the information about past investigations of Wright County Egg change the crisis situation?
  2. How would you evaluate Wright County Egg’s crisis effort at this point in the crisis?
  3. What other recommendations would you make for Wright County Egg’s crisis response and what is the logic behind those recommendations?
  4. Why does the egg industry feel the need to make a statement through its Egg Safety Center?
  5. The Egg Safety Center message features minimization.  Why would the egg industry try a minimization strategy in this crisis?
  6. The FDA is part of the crisis response.  What is their stake in the crisis?
  7. Combined, do you feel the crisis responses to this point have shown enough concern for public safety?  Who has been the best at protecting public safety?  The worst?
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One Response to Bad Eggs, Dangerous Eggs

  1. John says:

    The United Egg Producers is a discredited trade organization with a sordid history of consumer fraud and animal cruelty. The “UEP Certified” program allows hens to be confined in cages that provide each animal less space than a sheet of paper to spend her life. More at http://www.humanesociety.org/uep

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