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Salmonella in Eggs May Have Come from Tainted Feed

Sep 17, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

The federal investigation of Salmonella tainted eggs is focusing on contaminated feed found at Iowa-based Wright County Egg. It is still not known how the feed became contaminated.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Wright County Egg has its own mill that produced finished feed. So far, investigators have not been able to find Salmonella at Wright County Eggs’ suppliers, raising the possibility that the contamination occurred after the feed shipments were delivered.

Wright County Egg also supplied feed to one of two facilities at Hillandale Farms, a farm with which Wright is financially affiliated. Hillandale Farms is the other Iowa egg producer linked to the recent Salmonella outbreak.

As we’ve reported previously, a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) inspection of several Wright County Egg facilities last month uncovered a number of issues that could have led to contaminated eggs, such as bug and animal infestations, and an 8 foot manure pit at one farm.

According to The Wall Street Journal, it isn’t unusual for animal feed to contain Salmonella. However, it is unusual for feed to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis, the particularly dangerous strain found in Wright County Eggs’ feed, and the same type associated with the outbreak linked to the company’s eggs.

Over a year ago, the FDA considered a provision in an egg-safety rule that would have required testing for Salmonella enteritidis. An FDA analysis written at the time expressed concerns that feed tainted with Salmonella enteritidis could infect egg-laying hens and spark a human outbreak before being detected. If “feed is contaminated with SE (Salmonella enteritidis), the consequences for human health are potentially large,” the agency wrote.

Unfortunately, the FDA dropped the proposal. Companies were against it, and the FDA determined it would cost egg producers $29 million per year. The FDA declined to say whether a testing mandate would have affected Wright’s feed mill, the Journal said.

Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms have recalled more than half a billion eggs due to the nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1,500 illnesses may be associated with the recalled eggs.

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