Salmonella-tainted egg source given OK to sell to consumers again

Eggs ready for sortingEggs are heading back to store shelves from Hillandale Farms, one of two big Iowa egg producers who in August recalled more than 500 million eggs because of Salmonella contamination that sickened more than 1,600 people.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday night announced it had approved shipping from three of seven hen houses managed by Hillandale after intense review both of its facilities and its procedures. The FDA said there has been no sign of Salmonella at the three hen houses and that Hillandale Farms had committed to implement an enhanced surveillance process for Salmonella. Hillandale's four remaining hen houses are undergoing additional testing.

The FDA said Hillandale, one of the largest egg suppliers to supermarkets, began returning eggs to stores on Monday. There was no immediate word on the status of a second company involved in the recall, Wright County Eggs.

The egg recall came amidst reports of those sickened becoming seriously ill from the eggs.

In September a Congressional committee heard Sarah Lewis, a young mother of two children testify to being repeatedly hospitalized by illnesses related to Salmonella, scaring her young children each time she went back.

"I have a little old lady pill box that I still take every day," she said adding that she still is experiencing symptoms of the custard tart she ate at a college graduation banquet.

Carol Lobato, a 77-year-old grandmother, said after eating a rattlesnake cake appetizer at a suburban Denver restaurant specializing in wild game food, she was also repeatedly hospitalized and very sick.

"The salmonella infection is not over for me," she said. "I have lost my stamina. I often experience indigestion and it is difficult for me to enjoy certain foods. I feel tired and rest during the day. My doctors told me I almost certainly would have died without aggressive intervention."

Wright County officials apologized at the hearing. While one top executive at Hillandale declined to testify citing his Fifth Amendment rights, another said the company was "shocked" at the contamination reports. Congressmen at the hearing indicated their strong concern about what happened.

"What we learned about the two Iowa egg operations that produced the tainted eggs paint a very disturbing picture of egg production in American," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The recall happened as the FDA was about to implement a new rule requiring more oversight of egg producers.

The first FDA report of an inspection of both companies' facilities reported numerous problems, including sheds partly open to the outside, evidence of mice, rodents and flies, and leaking manure that hens were walking through.

Both companies, besides marketing under their own brand names, produce eggs for store brands including Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.

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