Salmonella sickens nearly three dozen people following recall of more than 200 million eggs

File photo. Michelle Stark
 | Times
File photo. Michelle Stark | Times
Published May 14
Updated May 14

A salmonella outbreak that led to a recall of nearly 207 million eggs has now sickened nearly three dozen people in states along the East Coast.

Thirty-five people - up by 12 over the past few weeks - have been sickened by Salmonella braenderup, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week. The outbreak, which has been traced to a single egg producer, has resulted in 11 hospitalizations. No deaths have been reported.

In April, Rose Acre Farms recalled its products after federal officials tied the illnesses to the company’s facility in North Carolina, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. The recalled eggs were sold under brand names such as Great Value, Country Daybreak and Crystal Farms. They were also sold to Waffle House restaurants and Food Lion stores.

An investigation by federal officials led to an inspection of the farm’s facility in Hyde County, North Carolina, which produces 2.3 million eggs a day from 3 million hens. Eggs produced at the farm are distributed to retail stores and restaurants in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. Illnesses have been reported in all of the states, the majority of which were from New York and Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Rose Acre Farms is a family-owned company headquartered in Seymour, Indiana, and has 17 facilities in eight states. The Washington Post was unable to reach the company Saturday. In a statement to the Indianapolis Star, chief operating officer Tony Wesner said: "We’re sorry for any concerns we may have caused consumers because some of our policies fell short of FDA standards, and we vow to do better in the future."

The company has started retraining employees and created a position called "Corporate Sanitation Manager," the Star reported.

Years ago, the company was involved in a nearly two-decade-long legal battle with the federal government. In 1990, three separate outbreaks that sickened about 450 people in three states were traced back to Rose Acre Farms. In response, the government prohibited the company from selling eggs from three Indiana farms where the contaminated eggs originated and required expensive cleanups that threatened to put the company out of business.

Rose Acre Farms sued, and a few years later a federal judge ruled that the government had overstepped its boundaries and had to compensate the company for income lost as a result of regulations. The judge ordered the government to pay the company $6 million. A federal appeals court tossed out the judgment, ruling the regulations did not hurt the company’s bottom line.

After a few more years of back-and-forth appeals, the case was dismissed in 2009.

The recall is the largest since 2010, when a major salmonella outbreak tied to Iowa egg farms sickened more than 1,500 people, said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based personal injury attorney who focuses on food-borne illness litigation.

More than 500 million eggs from two Iowa farms owned and controlled by Austin J. DeCoster were recalled that year. DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, each pleaded guilty to one count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. Authorities said the DeCosters’ company, Quality Egg, sold eggs contaminated with Salmonella enteriditis to several states and bribed an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to sell eggs that were "red tagged" for failing to meet minimum industry standards.

The father and son were sentenced to three months in jail and fined $7 million.

Salmonella can come from contaminated animal products such as beef, poultry, milk and eggs, as well as fruits and vegetables. It can cause fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain among healthy people, but can lead to fatal infections among children younger than 5, adults older than 65 and those with weak immune systems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths every year in the United States.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration ordered a mandatory recall of kratom products manufactured by Las Vegas-based Triangle Pharmanaturals after investigators found that many of the products contained salmonella. The outbreak spread to nearly 40 states and sickened 132 people.

Kratom or Mitragyna speciosa, an unregulated herbal supplement used to treat pain, anxiety, depression and symptoms of opioid withdrawal, has also been linked to three dozen non-salmonella-related deaths.

In March, the CDC investigated another salmonella outbreak that involved raw coconut and sickened 13 people in eight states. International Harvest Inc., based in Mount Vernon, New York, recalled bags and bulk packages of Organic Go Smile! Raw Coconut because of potential salmonella contamination.

In February, Triple T Specialty Meats, based in Ackley, Iowa, recalled more than 20,000 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad products that may have been contaminated with salmonella. The outbreak resulted in 265 illnesses in eight states. One person died, according to the CDC.

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