Lawmakers Investigate Egg Recall as Illnesses Rise
(Corrects total number of recalled eggs in second paragraph of story published yesterday.)
A nationwide recall of more than a half billion eggs linked to a salmonella outbreak prompted investigations by U.S. lawmakers as health officials said at least 40 new illnesses have occurred in the past four days.
Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa were asked by lawmakers from the House Energy and Commerce Committee to submit documents dating back more than five years about their safety practices, any alleged violations, and their discovery of the contaminated eggs. Wright County Egg, of Galt, Iowa, has announced recalls of 380 million eggs since Aug. 13. Hillandale, based in New Hampton, Iowa, announced a recall of 170 million eggs on Aug. 19, bringing the total to 550 million.
The incident may be the biggest withdrawal of salmonella- tainted eggs from the market in at least eight to 10 years, Jeffrey Farrar, the Food and Drug Administration’s associate commissioner for food protection, said today on a conference call. The FDA, which has more than 20 inspectors investigating the Iowa processing facilities, may report initial findings later this week, Farrar said. The agency also is inspecting facilities that supply hens to both companies, he said.
“We don’t anticipate any additional recalls of shell eggs from Wright County or Hillandale,” Farrar said.
Salmonella can cause fever, abdominal cramps and severe diarrhea and may require hospitalization, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC, which received 1,953 reports of salmonella-related illnesses from May 1 to July 31, learned of 40 additional cases in the past few days, said Christopher Braden, acting director of the CDC’s division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases. Illnesses in at least 15 states are being investigated for potential links to the contaminated eggs, state and federal health officials have said.
While it’s unclear how many of those cases are linked to the recalled eggs, the agency would have expected just 700 cases to have occurred during that time period, based on data from the previous five years, Braden said on the conference call.
Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, also today asked the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the egg recall. DeLauro asked the agencies what they knew about reports of past violations by the egg producers before the recall occurred. DeLauro heads the House subcommittee in charge of the budget of the FDA and Agriculture Department.
To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at email@example.com
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