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FDA Steps Up Inspections Under New Egg Rule

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To get the latest information about the Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak, go to www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/WhatsNewinFood/ucm222684.htm.

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Link to article about increased inspections of egg facilitites.

Federal regulators were laying out plans to inspect the facilities where 80 percent of the country’s eggs are produced, after issuing reports on the investigation of a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak that has sickened nearly 1,500 people.

Over the next 15 months, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators will team up with state and local partners to visit about 600 egg producers—those with 50,000 or more laying hens—to determine if their facilities are in compliance with an egg safety rule that went into effect in July.

Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, says the rule sets safety standards that are intended to prevent outbreaks of Salmonella Enteritidis like the one that has led to the recall of more than 500 million eggs.

”We think that the industry’s compliance with this rule will significantly reduce the risk of (Salmonella Enteritidis) infections and outbreaks in the future,” Taylor said during a conference call with reporters.

Since the egg safety rule went into effect on July 9, FDA officials have been moving forward with plans aimed at ensuring the safety of the nation’s egg supply. Now, facilities with 50,000 or more laying hens must implement controls to prevent contamination, including: refrigeration of eggs within 36 hours of laying, ensuring chicks are from uninfected flocks, and testing hen houses for Salmonella Enteriditis.

Under the rule, egg producers are legally responsible for implementing measures that will prevent egg contamination.

Taylor says the rule came too late to prevent the current outbreak, “but we think it is going to be a powerful tool for preventing outbreaks like this in the future.”

Since Aug. 12 when the inspections first began, FDA investigators have observed and documented conditions at facilities operated by the two Iowa companies at the center of the egg recall—Hillandale Farms of Iowa and Wright County Egg.

David Elder, FDA's director of regional operations, says inspectors found "significant objectionable" conditions at poultry houses, including live and dead flies that were "too numerous to count," live rodents, maggots, and structural damage that allowed animals to enter poultry houses. He says inspections over the next 15 months and beyond will ensure egg producers are meeting FDA standards under the new rule.

Examine Your Eggs

FDA officials are warning the public not to use eggs from the lots that are being recalled. Here’s what to look for when examining the eggs in your refrigerator:

  • Plant numbers—the four-digit plant number can be found on the short side of the carton. The numbers are preceded by the letter P.
  • Julian date—eggs are packaged with the Julian date on the short side of the carton. It appears after the plant number. The Julian date tells what day of the year the eggs were packaged without the month, so Jan. 1 is 001, and Dec. 31 is 365, except in leap years.

For more information on how to identify recalled eggs using Julian dates and plant numbers, go to http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/WhatsNewinFood/ucm223536.htm.

Eggs affected by the recall were shipped between early April through mid-August to grocery distribution sites, retail grocery stores, food wholesalers, distribution centers, and food service companies nationwide.

Although the companies have identified dozens of brand names under which the eggs were sold, other brands are unknown. Some eggs were sold individually and repackaged under names that may not be on the companies’ distribution lists. For a list of the brands that were confirmed to be involved in the recall, go to http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/shelleggsrecall/.

If you have some of the recalled eggs or you’re not sure who the producer was, throw them away or return them to the retailer for a refund.

About Salmonella

Because so many eggs have been recalled, many consumers wonder how they can tell if someone they know has been infected with Salmonella.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), 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 (infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

Salmonella can also cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

If you think you might have become ill from eating recalled eggs, consult your health care professional.

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Posted Sept. 4, 2010

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