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Stores remove recalled eggs from shelves

The eggs, from a major producer in Iowa, have been linked to a salmonella outbreak that has left hundreds of people across the U.S. sick, including as many as 266 in California.

August 18, 2010|By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times

Grocery stores across the state yanked eggs off their shelves after one of the largest U.S. producers recalled 228 million eggs connected to a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people across the nation, including as many as 266 in California.

On Wednesday the Associated Press reported that the recall had expanded to 380 million eggs.

The eggs, produced by Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa, also were linked to a number of illnesses reported in June and July in Colorado and Minnesota, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak led to a surge in reports of infection with the bacteria salmonella enteritidis this summer — at least four times the expected number, the agency said in a statement Monday.

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and can be fatal to young children and older people. No deaths so far have been reported in connection with the egg recall.

The CDC said it initially noticed a nationwide increase in May in the number of salmonella enteritidis infections. The number of reported infections of this particular subtype remained high in June and early July.

Investigations "conducted by public health officials in California, Colorado, and Minnesota have revealed several restaurants or events where more than one ill person with the outbreak strain has eaten," the CDC said in a statement Monday. It added that "state partners, [the Food and Drug Administration] and CDC conducted a traceback and found many of these restaurants or events received shell eggs from a single firm, Wright County Egg."

The recalled eggs were sold to food-service companies, restaurants and food wholesalers in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the agency said. Some of those buyers, in turn, sell eggs to other food outlets across the country, according to a company statement.

According to the FDA, the potentially contaminated eggs were found to have been packaged under 13 brands, including the store brands of Albertsons, Ralphs and Safeway's Lucerne Foods; the store brand of Midwestern and Virginia grocery chain Farm Fresh; and the Boomsma's, Dutch Farms, Hillandale, Kemps, Lund, Mountain Dairy, Shoreland, Sunshine and Trafficanda brands.

The eggs were sold in six-, 12- and 18-egg cartons. The agency said that consumers who bought these brands should check the egg cartons for two key identifying stamps. One is the number of the plant in which the eggs were produced — 1026, 1413 and 1946. The second is the so-called Julian or packing dates — in this case, numbers that range from 136 to 225.

If a carton has these numbers stamped on it, the FDA advises consumers to return the eggs to the retailer where they were purchased to receive a full refund.

Ralphs has been using its store loyalty card database to identify consumers who bought the recalled cartons. The chain is calling those consumers to ask them to bring the eggs back for a refund.

Safeway said the recall did not affect its Vons operations in Southern California, but its divisions in Northern California and elsewhere were affected.

"Lucerne Foods is voluntarily recalling Lucerne Grade AA eggs in 12-count and 18-count cartons sold at Safeway Food & Drug stores in seven states," said Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling. The stores are in Northern California, northern Nevada, Denver, New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Wright County Egg representatives could not be reached for comment Wednesday. In a statement, the company said it began recalling the eggs Friday. The company also said in a statement that it is cooperating with FDA officials, who are on site reviewing records and investigating the matter.

The recall has already sparked at least one lawsuit: In Wisconsin, a woman reported getting ill after eating a Cobb salad containing eggs from Wright County Egg at a restaurant in Kenosha last month. She went to the hospital and learned she was infected with salmonella enteritidis. The woman has sued the restaurant and Wright County Egg.

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