For the second time in 10 months, a cage-free egg production operation is closed as health officials announce a Salmonella outbreak linked to it and warn consumers and restaurants to not use its shell eggs.
Good Earth Egg Co. is the likely source of the outbreak, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday evening has sickened at least eight people in three states.
The outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg isolated from the sick people has been found at the Bonne Terre, MO, cage-free egg facility. The victims, two of whom required hospitalization, reported eating shell eggs at home and in restaurants before becoming sick.
A recall had not been initiated as of Monday, but federal officials say the company’s eggs should not be consumed.
“Consumers should not eat eggs distributed by Good Earth Egg Co.,” according to a notice from the Food and Drug Administration. “They should return them to the place of purchase for a refund or dispose of them immediately. Consumers should ask restaurants or retailers where their shell eggs came from to make sure they do not eat shell eggs from Good Earth Egg Co.
“Missouri state partners issued a second close order to Good Earth Egg Co. The order will remain in effect until the cause for illness is removed and satisfactory environmental samples are collected.”
The FDA has been investigating the current outbreak since August when CDC officials notified agency officials of eight sick people with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg, which matches an outbreak strain found at Good Earth Egg Co. in 2015 that sickened at least 52 people in six sates.
“Salmonella isolates from ill people in 2016 and from eggs supplied to a restaurant where three ill individuals ate were closely genetically related by whole genome sequencing to the Salmonella Oranienburg strain found at Good Earth Egg Company’s facility in 2015,” according to the FDA.
“The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, assisted by the FDA, inspected Good Earth Egg Company in September 2016 and found additional environmental samples from the company were a PFGE match to the Salmonella strain found in people who reported illness in 2015 and 2016.”
The Missouri officials closed the egg operation this past week, but a similar closure in late December 2015 resulted in the company reopening in a couple of days. A few days later, after additional lab tests showed the outbreak strain was present in the Good Earth Egg facility, the company recalled all of its shell eggs.
FDA warning cited ongoing Salmonella problems
Following the shell egg recall by Good Earth Egg Co., a February warning letter from FDA cited a litany of problems documented in December 2015, including numerous Salmonella issues.
FDA’s inspectors also reported the company had no record or documentation that laying houses are cleaned and disinfected between flocks. Problems with inadequate manure removal were also observed.
That warning letter remained unresolved as of Monday.
The letter also reported a complete lack of biosecurity measures at the Good Earth operation. The agency also questioned whether Susan David is qualified to be the Salmonella Enteritis plan supervisor, in part because she does not “oversee or participate in daily egg production.”
Outbreak suggests problems were never resolved
Owned by the David family, Good Earth Egg Co. told FDA it would have the required Salmonella plan in place by March 1. The agency has not reported whether that deadline was met.
However, with illness onset dates for the current outbreak having begun in April, the effectiveness of such a plan, if it was executed, may come into question.
Public health officials have interviewed six of the eight ill people identified in the current outbreak. Of those six, all reported eating or possibly eating shell eggs in the week before illness started. Ill people reported eating eggs in restaurants as well as at home.
“Federal, state, and local health and regulatory officials performed a traceback investigation from one restaurant location in Missouri where three ill people reported eating eggs. This investigation indicated that Good Earth Egg Company supplied eggs to that restaurant,” according to the CDC report.
“Missouri health officials collected and tested shell eggs from the Missouri restaurant location and isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg. Additionally, environmental samples taken at the Good Earth Egg Co. processing facility isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg. WGS (whole genome sequencing) showed that the isolates of Salmonella Oranienburg from eggs distributed by Good Earth Egg Co. are closely related genetically to isolates from ill people in this outbreak and from ill people and environmental samples in the 2015 outbreak.
“This close genetic relationship provides additional evidence that ill people in this outbreak and in the 2015 outbreak got sick from eating shell eggs distributed by Good Earth Egg Company of Bonne Terre, MO.”
For additional details on the February warning letter to Good Earth Egg Co., please see: “Cage-free eggs present food safety challenge in Missouri”
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