A Year After Tainted Iowa Eggs Sickened Hundreds, Oversight Lags

A year after a salmonella outbreak sickened at least 1,600 people and prompted the recall of a half-billion eggs from Iowa, the unsanitary farm conditions and weak regulatory oversight spotlighted by the episode persist, The Des Moines Register reports.

The newspaper’s investigation zeroed in on farms in Iowa, which produce 14 billion eggs a year, more than any other state. It found that some major Iowa producers still aren’t meeting minimum federal standards to prevent salmonella enteritidis — a potentially fatal bacterial infection that led to last year’s recall.

The Register also found that:

  • Iowa’s egg producers still aren’t required to tell state or federal officials when they find salmonella on their farms.
  • There is little on-site testing for salmonella at egg farms. Federal inspectors review the companies’ self-reported test results, even though the laboratories performing the tests are not required to be licensed or accredited.
  • The Iowa operations linked to last summer’s salmonella outbreak — Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, which both are tied to businessman Austin “Jack” DeCoster — have not been fined or otherwise penalized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency says the case remains under review, however.
  • Many Iowa egg farms will remain largely unregulated even under new federal food-safety laws taking effect next year. They laws will apply only to farms with at least 3,000 hens, a threshold that will exclude dozens of Iowa egg producers.
  • Farms are alerted about upcoming routine inspections days in advance.

The Register noted that there have been no egg recalls in Iowa during the past 12 months. Last last year, however, Ohio Fresh Eggs — which long has had financial ties to DeCoster — recalled 290,000 eggs because of a risk of salmonella contamination.

Related Posts:
Salmonella Outbreaks Spur Rise in U.S. Cases of Food Poisoning
Iowa Egg Farm at Center of Salmonella Outbreak Cleared to Resume Sales
Unbreakable, Unstoppable Jack DeCoster
New Recall, Usual Suspects: Salmonella, Eggs and Jack DeCoster

 

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