Salmonella linked to eggs sickens about 2,000

August 19, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The salmonella outbreak linked to eggs has now spread to 17 states. The number of illnesses is expected to grow, according to federal health officials.

Now, a food distributor says the company at the center of the massive egg recall used unauthorized cartons to package and sell eggs under its brand name without its knowledge.Dutch Farms says it is taking legal action against Wright County Eggs. Dutch Farm eggs and several other brands are being recalled for possible salmonella contamination.

No deaths have been linked to the outbreak, but the number of people getting sick is expected to grow.

Millions of eggs packed under 13 brand names from a farm in Iowa have been recalled as a result of an outbreak of hundreds of salmonella cases in California, Colorado and Minnesota. The recall of eggs potentially contaminated with salmonella has been expanded, according to the Ill. Dept. of Public Health.

Health department officials confirmed salmonella associated with recalled eggs, although none in Illinois, that are linked to the eggs at this time. Investigations are ongoing.

The first lawsuits have been filed since the nationwide recall.

Pleasant Prairie, Wis., resident Tanja Dzinovic said she got sick after eating a cobb salad at Baker Street Restaurant in Kenosha, Wis.

"It just hit me in the middle of the night," said Dzinovic. "Like I woke up with these weird, very bad stomach cramps."

She filed the first lawsuit against Wright County Farm. She said the eggs used in the salad that sickened her came from there.

"I was dehydrated. Fever. You name it, I had it. I felt I had everything," said Dzinovic.

"We don't know where or how this infection is getting into this particular farm we've identified," said Dr. Chris Braden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The owner of Wright County Egg has been cited for numerous health, safety and employment violations in the past.

He could be facing more legal trouble, as Chicago distributor Dutch Farms is considering legal action.

Company officials say that Wright County used unauthorized cartons to package and sell eggs under the Dutch Farms name.

The company is fielding 100 phone calls an hour, but Operations Manager Jay Earnshaw assures customers that Dutch farms eggs are safe.

"The farms that we use in Michigan and Indiana are not part of this recall," said Earnshaw. "The call came through this distribution plant."

A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration believes the outbreak could have been prevented if new rules to ensure egg safety had gone into effect just a few months earlier. They were put in place in July.

The FDA advises the use of pasteurized egg shells and liquid eggs to help retailers and food service outlets, along with consumers, to avoid contracting dangerous egg-related salmonella.

National Pasteurized Eggs, Inc. pasteurizes thousands of eggs daily out of its plant in suburban Chicago. The vice president of the company showed ABC7 Chicago how the process works.

"Really, it's a giant hot water bath. What we do is we put the eggs in the hot water bath. It takes over an hour. We slowly heat the internal temperature of the eggs so that we can kill any bacteria on the inside of the egg. We can prevent that egg from cooking so that when the consumer goes home, they can have something that looks, tastes and performs like any other egg," said Vice President Jay Berglind.

Berglind says consumers should look for eggs in containers that say "pasteurized" and make sure that each egg has been stamped with a "P." He added that it is impossible to determine if an egg is contaminated and talked about the dangers of cross contamination.

" The cross contamination is a real issue. Every time you crack an egg, you leave a little on your fingers. It is easy to cross contaminate a kitchen in minutes," said Berglind.

ABC News reports that you can identify a recalled egg carton by looking at the Julian dates and plant code stamped on the carton or label. The Julian dates range from 136 to 229 with plant numbers 1026, 1413, 1942 and 1946. The plant numbers begin with "P-".

The dates on recalled cartons range from May 16 to August 17.

Consumers should not eat the recalled eggs and should return them to the store for a refund.

"People can still buy eggs as long as they cook them, and that cooking will eliminate the risk of salmonella," Dr. Susan Gerber, an infectious disease physician, told ABC7 Chicago via telephone.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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