Originally published Aug. 18. Last updated Aug. 30.
An increasingly massive egg recall by Write County Egg and Hillandale Farm Eggs, following the sickening of hundreds of people since May, now also affects 44 additional brands that the egg factories produce for. It's the largest outbreak of salmonella poisoning from eggs in the nation's history. The culprit: Salmonella on egg shells. On up to half a billion egg shells, to be exact.
Bacterial contamination on modern industrial-scale chicken farms (factories, really) is a growing problem. Cramped conditions are breeding grounds for disease. Widespread use of antibiotics is creating drug-resistant strains of bacteria. Salmonella in eggs only emerged as a problem in the 1980s, several centuries after humans started raising chickens for food. According to the New York Times:
(One) company behind the recall, Wright County Egg, of Galt, Iowa, is owned by Jack DeCoster, who has had run-ins with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, the harassment of workers and the hiring of illegal immigrants.
Food and Drug Administration inspections at two Galt, Iowa, facilities owned and operated by Wright County Egg (Quality Egg LLC) and Hillandale Farms, found numerous apparent violations, including infestations with rodents, wild bird roosts and uncleanly worker procedures, all of which can introduce or spread salmonella contamination.
One antidote to the problem of industrialized agriculture is to choose locally sourced eggs from farms that allow their chickens to run free. Though be aware that the label "free range" doesn't mean what you might think. While salmonella can contaminate small chicken and egg farms, too, many of the conditions that breed disease are less common than on factory farms, and any problems aren't likely to cause such widespread illness.
Here's a list of the brands involved in the egg recall (click each link for more information, including, in some cases, additional information about identifying recalled eggs by the carton information):
Hidden Villa Ranch
Mountain Dairy Nulaid
Trafficanda Egg Ranch
Wright County Egg
The Wright County Egg-related recalled eggs, packed in 6- 12- or 18-egg cartons, will be marked as follows:
The Hillanddale Farms egg cartons affected by the recall will have these numbers:
More identification information from the FDA.
Consumers should not eat the eggs, and should return recalled eggs to the store where they were purchased for a full refund.
Within 6-to-72 hours of eating an egg, you may experience lower abdominal cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, fever, chills, malaise, nausea or headache. Symptoms may persist for as long as a week. While most people recover without treatment, some patients require hospitalization.
Among the 21,244 cases of foodborne illness reported outbreaks in the United States in 2007 (the last year for which data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Salmonella was the No. 2 cause of illness, causing 27% of foodborne illness outbreaks, including 55% of multi-state outbreaks, and 81 illnesses attributed to Salmonella in eggs; five deaths resulted from Salmonella-contaminated food. The two biggest foodborne illness outbreaks that year were caused by Salmonella, in hummus and frozen pot pies.
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