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US salmonella scare is one of biggest egg recalls

August 20, 2010

A top US egg producer Thursday expanded its recall to include 380 million chicken eggs that could be contaminated with salmonella bacteria, in one of the largest such recalls in recent history.

The eggs were produced by Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, and sold around the country under 143 different brands, packed in boxes of six, 12 and 18 eggs.

The company on August 13 voluntarily recalled 220 million eggs from the market after hundreds of reported salmonella cases. The FDA reported that first recall on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the company expanded its recall to 380 million eggs, saying the number represented one percent of total US egg production.

It's "one of the largest eggs recall in recent history," said Food and Drug Administration Division (FDA) of Public Health and Biostatistics director Sherri McGarry.

FDA experts said in Thursday in a telephone press conference they were investigating the origins of a salmonella outbreak that has spiked to 1,953 cases between May and July of this year.

Without linking it directly to Wright County Egg, the administration said the outbreak was more than twice the normal number of salmonella cases for the period.

The FDA said, however, that infected rodents many have spread salmonella in Wright chicken farms.

The company said it has decided to pasteurize all its fresh stocks of eggs to kill off any salmonella bacteria.

Salmonella is spread most often by the consumption of food contaminated by animal fecal matter, according to health experts.

The microbe usually flourishes within the intestinal tracts of fowl and mammals.

An estimated 400,000 people are infected with food-borne salmonella each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention.

The Egg Safety Center has estimated the risk of salmonella infected eggs at one in 20,000, meaning the US consumer can be eating eggs for 84 years before finding a tainted one.

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