- Nearly 207 million eggs feared to be contaminated with salmonella have been recalled by North Carolina-based Rose Acre Farms, according to The Washington Post. Twenty-two people on the East Coast have been sickened by the outbreak, but no deaths have been reported.
- The company supplies eggs to retailers in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and North and South Carolina. The eggs were sold under brands including Crystal Farms and Country Daybreak, as well as private label brands at Food Lion and Walmart.
- This is the largest salmonella recall since 2010, when an outbreak connected to Iowa egg farms sickened more than 1,500 people.
Though this outbreak has sickened fewer people than the Quality Egg company outbreak eight years ago, the consequences could be significant — especially if the numbers of affected consumers rises.
It's uncertain what the loss of more than 200 million eggs could mean on supply and prices, but vacancies on some grocery stores shelves like Walmart, the nation's largest grocer, could deprive them of a popular consumer staple if they are unable to replenish their supply. The FDA said the recall took place "through an abundance of caution."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States every year. Food is the source for about 1 million of these illnesses.
While food-contaminating bacteria like salmonella is often associated with undercooked or mishandled meat, salmonella can also contaminate produce in many ways. It can be spread on produce by poor handling, contaminated water or surfaces, and spots that may be starting to go bad.
This recall is not the first big one to involve eggs. In a 2010 case, more than 500 million eggs from two Iowa farms owned by Austin J. DeCoster were recalled. DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster were jailed for 3 months and fined $6.8 million after pleading guilty for selling contaminated eggs to several states, and bribing a USDA egg inspector to try and sell "red tagged" eggs that failed to meet industry standards.
This case was significant to the food industry because the DeCosters' convictions were misdemeanors, meaning the government didn't have to prove that the father and son had intent at the time of the crime. This situation was a departure from past food safety scandals — prosecutors had proof, for example, that Peanut Corporation of America CEO Stewart Parnell knowingly distributed salmonella-tainted peanut butter, which killed nine people and sickened 714 in 2008. Parnell is serving a 28-year prison sentence.
Authorities could push for similar misdemeanor-based punishment if they feel the Rose Acre Farms outbreak was mishandled.
Through past outbreaks and shortages, the egg industry has proven resilient. Overall demand for eggs will likely persist despite this latest round of illnesses. According to Statista, Americans consume 274 eggs per person annually.