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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Egg Salmonella Enteriditis Outbreak and Smoking Guns

smoking gun.jpgWhen lawyers talk about “the smoking gun,” we are usually talking documents, not finding genetically matching Salmonella Enteriditis samples at Wright County Egg and in its chicken feed – but that will work too.

So, where are we? The FDA and Wright County Egg Recall number is still 550,000,000, which was announced August 15. And, newer numbers on those ill are now at least 1,500 according to the CDC. However, we still have very little information on the actual spread of those illnesses on a state-by-state basis.

Now in addition to the questions raised on how this Salmonella Enteriditis outbreak happened, are questions about when Wright County Egg and local, state and federal officials knew that the public was at risk. Someone who I have a great deal of respect for, Jeff Farrar, DVM, PhD, MPH, associate commissioner of food safety at FDA, has defended the government’s response to the contamination, which has been criticized by others as too slow.

“We have to strike a balance between being timely and being accurate,” he said, noting that the FDA requested that Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms initiate the recall before lab results had confirmed that the companies’ eggs were the source of the outbreak.

It is hard to argue with Jeff. However, because of the litigation we have filed, we received public health records today from the County of Kenosha (WI) Department of Human Services, as part of our ongoing investigation of the nationwide Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak. A partial selection of the records can be viewed here: County of Kenosha (WI) Department of Human Services Records

Among some of the interesting notes:

• An email on August 6, 2010, showing the connection between the Baker Street restaurant outbreak and the larger outbreak: “we were able to link the eggs from Baker Street to a large egg farm in Iowa.”

• References to an egg distributor from Milwaukee, Reinhardt, as a common source of eggs to implicated restaurants, and the statement that Reinhardt “receives their eggs directly from Wright County Egg.”

• Discussion of clusters of illnesses with a matching strain in Minnesota, as well as “additional restaurant outbreaks in Iowa and Colorado.”

• Implication of illnesses in California on August 4, “We have firmly implicated shell eggs as the source in two outbreaks and traceback of shell eggs in our most recent outbreak appears to match egg traceback California has conducted.”

• A description of the four restaurant clusters in Minnesota sharing the outbreak strain.

Obviously, we are in the dark (perhaps less so that others) on the particulars at this point, but the first mention of a national outbreak and recall to the public was August 15 (we heard rumblings a few days before that). So, what happened between August 6, or earlier, and August 15?