October 25, 2014

Salmonella Heidelberg Found at Former Wright County Egg Facility

In 2010, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms in north central Iowa were the center of a huge egg recall after eggs produced at those facilities were linked to a nationwide outbreak that sickened at least 2,000 Americans. On August 14, 2012, the FDA sent the company that acquired those facilities a warning letter about the presence of Salmonella Heidelberg (SH) bacteria in two of its six poultry houses.

More than half a billion eggs were recalled two years ago during the outbreak. Centrum Valley Farms leased all of the egg production facilities owned by Jack and Peter DeCoster in 2011. FDA inspectors discovered Salmonella Heidelberg (SH) in the poultry houses during inspections last April and May. The letter states that the facility has “serious violations of the Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in Shell Eggs regulation.”

More specifically, the facility does not have a written SE prevention plan that tests the pullet environment and does not have procedures for “removing dust, feathers and old feed from a pullet house for which an environmental test was positive.” In addition, the facility did not test for SE within two critical time periods; when the pullets are 14-16 weeks of age, and again when laying hens reached 40 to 45 weeks of age. Only 4 samples were provided for a representative environmental sample, when 12 are required. Finally, there were no records recoding compliance with refrigeration requirements.

Regarding the finding of Salmonella Heidelberg, the FDA stated that “SH is an organism that can transmit via the transovarian route, in a fashion similar to SE. There is a strong body of scientific evidence indicating the primary risk factor for SH illnesses is shell eggs. Furthermore, SH has caused several egg associated outbreaks resulting in human illness and at times death. Given this body of evidence, FDA considers SH within a poultry house environment to be a public health threat.”

The transovarian route of transmission means that the bacteria can get inside the shell to the egg itself. This can sicken people who cook their eggs less than well-done, such as “over easy” fried eggs, or eggs used raw in recipes.

Centrum has responded to the FDA’s letter, but was told to write to the FDA again, detailing the corrections it has made to the facilities since the inspection.

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