WASHINGTON --- More than a half-billion eggs have been recalled in the nationwide investigation of a salmonella outbreak that Friday expanded to include a second Iowa farm. The outbreak has already sickened more than 1,000 people and the toll of illnesses is expected to increase.
Iowa's Hillandale Farms said Friday it was recalling more than 170 million eggs after laboratory tests confirmed salmonella. The company did not say whether its action was connected to the recall by Wright County Egg, another Iowa farm that recalled 380 million eggs earlier this week. The latest recall puts the total number of potentially tainted eggs at about 550 million.
FDA spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy said the two recalls are related. The strain of salmonella bacteria causing the poisoning is the same in both cases, salmonella enteritidis.
Federal officials say it's one of the largest egg recalls in recent history. Americans consume about 220 million eggs a day, based on industry estimates..
The eggs recalled Friday were distributed under the brand names Hillandale Farms, Sunny Farms, Sunny Meadow, Wholesome Farms and West Creek. The new recall applies to eggs sold between April and August.
Hillandale said the eggs were distributed to grocery distribution centers, retail groceries and food service companies that service or are located in fourteen states, including Arkansas, California, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.
Thoroughly cooking eggs can kill the bacteria. But health officials are recommending people throw away or return the recalled eggs.
A food safety expert at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said the source of the outbreak could be rodents, shipments of contaminated hens, or tainted feed. Microbiology professor Patrick McDonough said he was not surprised to hear about two recalls involving different egg companies.
Both plants could have a rodent problem, or both plants could have gotten hens that were already infected, or feed that was contaminated.
The salmonella bacteria is not passed from hen to hen, but usually from rodent droppings to chickens, he added. This strain of bacteria is found inside a chicken's ovaries, and gets inside an egg.
CDC officials said Thursday that the number of illnesses related to the outbreak is expected to grow. That's because illnesses occurring after mid-July might not be reported yet, said Dr. Christopher Braden, an epidemiologist for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Almost 2,000 illnesses from the strain of salmonella linked to both recalls were reported between May and July, Braden said. No deaths have been reported.