FDA Allows Iowa Farm to Sell Eggs Again

US - The US Food and Drug Administration has cleared Wright County Egg to resume limited sales of fresh shell eggs for the first time since a salmonella outbreak was linked to the Galt, Iowa, company in August.
calendar icon 1 December 2010
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The egg sales will be restricted initially to two of 18 barns on a Clarion farm that is one of six company sites.

The company owned by Jack DeCoster and a second firm recalled 550 million eggs in August in the wake of the salmonella contamination. More than 1,500 cases of sickness were linked to the companies' eggs.

Inspectors subsequently found widespread biosecurity problems and numerous violations of new federal egg-safety regulations at Wright County Egg. The violations included doors forced open by piles of manure and the presence of live mice, which can carry salmonella.

According to DesMoinesRegister.com, the FDA gave the company a formal warning letter in October, threatening to close the operation if the problems were not corrected.

Wright County Egg has been allowed to sell its eggs only for pasteurization and processing since the recall.

The two barns from which shipments of fresh eggs can resume will produce about 864,000 eggs per week, the company said.

A company spokeswoman declined to say where the eggs would be sold.

The FDA said Tuesday that its decision was based on corrective actions that the company had taken in those two hen houses. The FDA will permit resumption of sales from additional barns as the company fixes problems in those buildings.

A dozen FDA investigators have been involved in inspecting the facilities.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said: "During the outbreak, I said that FDA would not agree to the sale of eggs to consumers from Wright County Egg until we had confidence that they could be shipped and consumed safely. After four months of intensive work by the company and oversight, testing, and inspections by FDA, I am satisfied that time has come."

All hens in the two barns at the time of the outbreak were removed, and the buildings were cleaned, sanitized and tested to ensure that they are no longer contaminated with salmonella, the FDA said. The company also has developed a biosecurity plan to minimize the risk of contamination from other barns or farms.

A company feed mill that supplies Wright County Egg was repaired, cleaned and disinfected. Feed ingredients are now being tested for salmonella.

A second company in the recall, Hillandale Farms of Iowa, was allowed to resume shipping fresh eggs in October. Hillandale used Wright County Egg's hens and feed.

The FDA said it confirmed Wright County had taken the corrective measures at the two Clarion barns through inspections in October and November. The eggs as well as areas around the barns were tested for salmonella to ensure they were safe, the agency said. The company will continue to test the barns monthly.

The agency said it planned to inspect the farm periodically to make sure it is operating properly.

Peter DeCoster, Jack DeCoster's son and Wright County Egg's chief operating officer, said the company will work with FDA to phase in sales from additional barns over time.

"Extraordinary measures have been put in place to put our egg farms at the forefront of food safety and to protect the health of our birds, and our team has worked tirelessly over the past several months to ensure that the past situation is never repeated," he said.

The recall brought nationwide attention to the problems the senior DeCoster has had with food safety and with immigration and environmental laws in Iowa, Maryland, Maine and other states.

The outbreak also prompted the egg industry to strengthen its voluntary safety standards and provided fresh momentum behind legislation then stalled in Senate to overhaul the FDA's food-safety programs. The bill passed the Senate Tuesday.

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