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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Fourfold Spike per week in Salmonella Enteritidis Cases Since May Likely Linked to Wright County Egg


On July 9, 2009, FDA published in the Federal Register a final rule that established a regulation part 118 (21 CFR part 118) entitled “Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production, Transportation, and Storage.” The egg rule in part 118 requires shell egg producers to implement measures to prevent Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) from contaminating eggs on the farm and from further growth during storage and transportation, and requires these producers to maintain records concerning their compliance with the rule and to register with FDA.  According to the FDA “as many as 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths due to consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis may be avoided each year with new food safety requirements for large-scale egg producers.” See the “Egg Rule” that went into effect July 9, 2010.

In May 2010, CDC identified a nationwide increase in the number of Salmonella Enteritidis isolates with PFGE pattern JEGXX01.0004 uploaded to PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections. The increase represents approximately a four-fold increase over the expected number of reported isolates of this particular PFGE pattern. Approximately 200 isolates were uploaded to PulseNet on a weekly basis during late June and early July compared to an expected ~50 uploads a week on average during this same period in the previous 5 years. Many states have reported increases of this pattern since May.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in many states, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate a nationwide increase of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) infections with an indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern JEGXX01.0004.

Epidemiologic investigations conducted by public health officials in California, Colorado, and Minnesota have revealed several restaurants or events where more than one ill person with the outbreak strain has eaten. Preliminary data suggests that shell eggs are a likely source of infections in many of these restaurants or events. State partners, FDA, and CDC, conducted a traceback and found many of these restaurants or events received shell eggs from a single firm, Wright County Egg, in Galt, Iowa. FDA is currently conducting an extensive investigation at the firm in Iowa. The investigation includes CDC participation and involves sampling, records review and looking for potential sources of contamination, such as feed. The investigation continues and updates will be made available.