More than a quarter of a million eggs from an Ohio farm have been recalled from eight states because of Salmonella enteritidis concerns.
This marks the latest high-profile woe for the nation's food-safety system. And it potentially could add to the legal troubles faced by the Iowa farmer at the center of two massive egg recalls over the summer.
Cal-Maine Foods Inc., the nation's leading egg seller and distributor, said Monday that it was recalling 288,000 eggs that the Jackson, Miss., firm had bought from Ohio Fresh Eggs.
Cal- Maine said in a statement that the federal Food and Drug Administration alerted the company Friday that its Croton, Ohio-based supplier had a routine sample test positive for salmonella. Cal-Maine had bought about 24,000 dozen unprocessed eggs from Ohio Fresh, which were then processed and repackaged at Cal-Maine's facility in Arkansas from Oct. 9 to 12.
"The company was only notified today," Cal-Maine said the statement. The eggs involved were distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. There have been no confirmed illnesses related to the purchased eggs.
According to Cal-Maine, the potentially contaminated eggs were packaged under four brands: James Farm, Springfield Grocer, Sunny Meadow and Sun Valley. The company said consumers who bought these brands should check the cartons for three key identifying stamps. One is the number of the plant in which the eggs were produced — 1457; second is the so-called Julian, or packing, dates — 282, 284 or 285; and third is the "sell by" or "expiration date" of 11/07/10, 11/09/10 or 11/24/10.
If a carton has these numbers stamped on it, the company advises consumers to return the eggs to the retailer where they were purchased to receive a full refund.
Austin "Jack" DeCoster, whose Wright County Egg was one of the two Iowa farms connected to at least 1,600 people falling ill because of contaminated eggs earlier this year, has long had financial ties to Ohio Fresh Egg. (New FDA rules governing egg safety went into effect July 9, too late to prevent the widespread salmonella outbreak.)
In 2003, DeCoster made a $125-million investment in Ohio Fresh Eggs, a company co-owned by Orland Bethel, who is also the owner of Hillandale Farms, the other Iowa farm connected to the August recalls of 550 million eggs. Ohio state officials questioned the investment, but a state court ultimately ruled that there was no wrongdoing.
The Ohio Agriculture Department said earlier this year that DeCoster was still an investor in Ohio Fresh Eggs. Ohio agricultural officials could not be reached for comment on the issue Monday.
Neither Ohio Fresh Eggs nor Wright County Egg could be reached for comment.
Last month the FDA issued a warning letter to Wright County Egg for sanitation violations including failure to control rodents.
"In some respect the fact that recalls are occurring shows that the FDA and some companies are taking salmonella and the egg rule seriously," said food safety attorney William Marler, who represents 105 people who tested positive for Salmonella enteritidis linked to Wright County and Hillandale eggs. "However, how any DeCoster operation remains in business is a mystery to me."