Evidence of hundreds of positive tests for Salmonella contamination in the past two years at the egg-producing facilities in Iowa that had to recall some 500 million eggs have congressional leaders questioning this "disturbing" revelation.
More than 1,500 people were sickened in a Salmonella outbreak connected to the eggs, and members of Congress investigating the situation want to know what was done at the facilities in the face of the staggering number of contaminated samples that long preceded the recall.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., In a letter suggested that while the recall was the first, there had been evidence of earlier salmonella contamination.
The letter to Austin DeCoster, the owner of Wright County Egg, asked whether federal or state officials had been notified and what Wright County Egg had done to rectify the problems. DeCoster is due to testify next week at a committee hearing on the recall that is also expected to examine the role of the Food and Drug Administration.
According to the letter, DeCoster's Wright County Egg had received 426 positive results for salmonella between 2008 and 2010, some for the exact same strain that prompted the recall.
"Environmental sample reports between 2008 and 2010 indicate that Wright County Egg received 426 positive results for Salmonella, including 73 samples that were potentially positive for salmonella enteritidis, the same strain that has sickened 1,519 people," said the letter.
"When you testify before the committee, we ask that you come prepared to explain why your facilities tested positive for salmonella enteritidis contamination on so many occasions, what steps you took to address the contamination identified in these test results and whether you shared these results with [Food and Drug Administration] or other federal or state food safety officials."
In addition to DeCoster, Orlando Bethel, president of Hillandale Farms, the second company involved in the recall, and Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at FDA are due to testify.
A committee spokeswoman said today the committee is still reviewing the inspection records for Hillandale Farms and hasn't sent the company any similar letter yet.
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