However, while Salmonella once contaminated the outside of chicken eggs, improved safety techniques, including washing and sanitizing practices by egg producers in the 1970s, has greatly decreased this problem. Now it is more common for Salmonella to contaminate the inside of a whole, uncracked egg, as a healthy-appearing hen can be infected with Salmonella and lay contaminated eggs.
So how do hens get Salmonella? Surprisingly, they don't get it from other contaminated hens. Instead, hens can be infected with Salmonella before they even get to the egg producer by being fed contaminated feed, or they can get it from rodent droppings.
Since hens with Salmonella appear healthy and usually lay normal eggs in addition to some that are contaminated with Salmonella, it can be hard to identify these problems. It is estimated that only about 1 in 10,000 eggs are usually contaminated with Salmonella at any time, which of course is still too many, since that leads to many thousands of infections in people that eat those eggs each year.
2010 Egg Recall
The FDA, CDC, and state health experts have been investigating a nationwide increase in Salmonella infections since April 2010. This includes 29 outbreaks of Salmonella in restaurants and at other events. All together, at least 1,813 cases of Salmonella were thought to be associated with this egg recall.
Although the initial reports of Salmonella were in California, Colorado, and Minnesota, cases are also being investigated in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
The investigation linked the first Salmonella cases to eggs that were produced by Wright County Egg, in Galt, Iowa, and this led to the first egg recall on August 13, 2010. Wright County Egg recalled 228 million eggs that were packed between May 16 and August 13 and were distributed nationwide with plant numbers (P) 1026, 1413, and 1946 and Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225.
Wright County Egg expanded their recall on August 18 to include more brands, increasing the number of eggs on the egg recall list to 380 million.
On August 20, Hillandale Farms of Iowa, another large egg producer, was also added to the egg recall, expanding the list of egg recall brands even further, with an additional 170 million eggs being recalled.
Could you have eaten any of those 550 million eggs that may have been contaminated with Salmonella? Since recalled eggs had been sold since May, it is likely that most have already been eaten or have long since expired. But since, according to an article in the Dallas Morning News, finding recalled eggs 'is challenging because some egg suppliers mix in eggs from different producers to complete an order - unbeknownst to the customer,' you may not know if you had a recalled egg or ate one at a restaurant.
Another problem is that many people don't save egg cartons when they buy eggs, instead putting them into a refrigerator's egg holder or a separate egg tray.
And of course, as you can see from our egg recall timeline, the egg recall continued to expand for some time.
Egg Recall List
Contaminated eggs were originally produced by Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. They were then distributed to grocery distribution centers, retail grocery stores and food service companies that now affect 26 states, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Egg recall brands included certain cartons and packs sold under these brand names:
- Alta Dena Dairy
- Cal Egg
- Cardenas Market
- Challenge Dairy
- Country Eggs
- Driftwood Dairy
- Dutch Farms
- Farm Fresh
- Farmer's Gems
- Hidden Villa Ranch
- Hillandale Farms
- James Farms
- Liborio Market
- Market Pantry
- Mi Pueblo
- Mountain Dairy
- Pacific Coast
- Shamrock Foods
- Sparboe Farms
- Sunny Farms
- Sunny Meadow
- Sun Valley
- Wagon Trail
- West Creek
- Wholesome Farms
- Yucaipa Valley
It is important to keep in mind that not all of the eggs sold under these brand names were recalled. You have to check the label to match the plant number (P) and Julian date, usually in the form P-1413 135 or P-1026-225, etc., to see if you have any of the affected brands.
You should not eat recalled eggs, since even if you are able to kill the Salmonella in a contaminated egg by thoroughly cooking it, you run the risk of cross-contaminating other things you handle.