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Published November 30, 2010, 02:53 PM

FDA says Iowa egg farm can resume shell egg sales

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration says it will allow an Iowa egg farm linked to a widespread salmonella outbreak to resume selling its shell eggs to consumers.

By: Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration says it will allow an Iowa egg farm linked to a widespread salmonella outbreak to resume selling its shell eggs to consumers.

Wright County Egg recalled 380 million eggs earlier this year after the farm and another Iowa operation, Hillandale Farms, were linked to more than 1,600 salmonella illnesses. A subsequent FDA inspection of the farms revealed dead chickens, insects, rodents and towers of manure.

In October, the FDA allowed Hillandale to resume shipping its eggs but sent Wright County Egg a letter saying the business could be shut down if the farm didn’t take corrective actions. The FDA inspections showed far more violations at Wright County Egg than at Hillandale, which purchased chickens and feed from Wright.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Tuesday that Wright County Egg has implemented corrective measures and the government will allow the company to sell eggs from two laying houses at one of its six farms. Since August, the company has only sold eggs to breaker facilities that pasteurize them.

“During the outbreak, I said that FDA would not agree to the sale of eggs to consumers from Wright County Egg until we had confidence that they could be shipped and consumed safely,” Hamburg said. “After four months of intensive work by the company and oversight, testing, and inspections by FDA, I am satisfied that time has come.”

The FDA said the company has sanitized the laying houses and removed the hens that were there, developed plans to prevent contamination, vaccinated hens for salmonella, rid the houses of rodents, disinfected its feed mill, corrected structural defects in the houses and started testing feed ingredients.

In a statement, Wright County Egg CEO Peter DeCoster said the farm has taken “extraordinary measures” to ensure their eggs are safe.

“We recognize that we will have to continue to do more than is expected of us as we resume operations at our Iowa farms, both to ensure our ongoing compliance with FDA regulations and to re-establish successful relationships with our customers,” DeCoster said.

DeCoster’s father, Jack DeCoster, owns the farm. The elder DeCoster has paid millions of dollars in state and federal fines over at least two decades for health, safety, immigration and environmental violations at several of his operations.

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