While concerned consumers, restauranteurs and food service operators wade through recall notices and cull their egg supplies, CDC and FDA – in conjunction with state and local agencies – have been trying to determine how many of the hundreds of reported Salmonella Enteritidis cases can be linked to shell eggs recalled by Wright County Egg (Galt, IA).
Because this Salmonella strain is a common one that has been prevalent in the US for many years, it is very difficult to separate the outbreak cases from the "background noise." From May 1st through July 31st, CDC received reports of 1,953 illnesses caused by Salmonella Enteritidis (genetic pattern JEGXX01.0004). Ordinarily, CDC would expect only some 700 reports of this genetic strain during that three month time period.
CDC is conducting advanced genetic testing to distinguish between sporadic (or background) cases of Salmonella Enteritidis and those cases that are clearly outbreak-related.
Ten states have identified a total of 26 restaurants or events where more than one person infected with Salmonella Enteritidis had eaten (illness clusters). Epidemiological studies and product tracebacks allowed public health officials in California, Colorado and Minnesota to identify shell egg consumption as a common feature. Wright County Egg was an egg supplier in 15 of the 26.
Although CDC has not named the other states, FDA reports that investigations are under way in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. Here are the details that have been released so far:
- California:- 266 confirmed cases, including 43 in Los Angeles County
- Colorado:- 28 cases in June and July, versus the usual 7 cases for that time frame; some of the cases were from an outbreak associated with The Fort, a restaurant in Jefferson County
- Minnesota:- 7 cases, linked to two separate restaurant outbreaks
- Southern Nevada:- 30 cases since January – four times the usual number
- Texas:- more than 150 cases in 40 or more counties since mid-May; investigations are in progress to determine how many are linked to Wright County's eggs
- Wisconsin:- 21 cases linked to the Baker Street Restaurant and Pub in Kenosha
The egg recall has extended to nearly 20 brands, distributed to wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and food service operators across the United States. None of the eggs were exported to Canada, as the affected plants were not eligible to export eggs to Canada.
The magnitude of this outbreak may prove a boon to the acceptance of pasteurized shell eggs, both by food service operators and by consumers. Chicago-based National Pasteurized Eggs announced earlier today that it has ramped up production of its Davidson's Safest Choice Pasteurized Shell Eggs to meet anticipated increased demand for its product.
CDC offers the following Advice to Consumers:
- Don’t eat recalled eggs or products containing recalled eggs. Recalled eggs might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers' homes. Consumers who have recalled eggs should discard them or return them to their retailer for a refund.
- Individuals who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should consult their health care providers.
- Keep eggs refrigerated at 45° F (7° C) or lower at all times.
- Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
- Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
- Eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm and eaten promptly after cooking.
- Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Refrigerate unused or leftover egg- containing foods promptly.
- Avoid eating raw eggs.
- Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing) that calls for raw eggs.
- Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly persons, and persons with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.
The following advice applies to Retail and Food Service Establishments and Institutional Settings:
- In retail and food service establishments, pasteurized egg products or pasteurized in-shell eggs are recommended in place of pooled eggs or raw or undercooked shell eggs. If used, raw shell eggs should be fully cooked. If shell eggs are served undercooked, a consumer advisory should be posted in accordance with the Food Code.
- In hospitals, nursing homes, adult or childcare facilities, and senior centers, pasteurized egg products or pasteurized in-shell eggs should be used in place of pooled eggs or raw or undercooked eggs.
- Eggs should be purchased or received from a distributor refrigerated and stored refrigerated 45° F (7° C) or lower at all times.
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