Free-range Organic table eggs from Larry Schultz Organic Farm (Owatonna, MN) are believed to be the source of six cases of Salmonella Enteritidis infections in residents of the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, according to a joint news statement released today by the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
All six patients were infected with the same strain of Salmonella Enteritidis. They became ill between August 12th and September 24th. Three of the patients were hospitalized, but have since recovered. A seventh case is under investigation, according to Trisha Robinson, Senior Epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.
Five of the six confirmed outbreak patients reported eating eggs from the Larry Schultz farm. Environmental testing carried out by the Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of Salmonella Enteritidis at the farm. Genetic profiling (PFGE) results for the Salmonella recovered from the farm environment are pending.
The Larry Schultz Organic Farm is a small producer, with fewer than 3,000 laying hens, according to FDA’s Sebastian Cianci. As a small producer, it is not subject to the FDA’s Egg Safety Rule and, therefore, was not on the FDA’s inspection schedule (the Egg Assignment List).
The eggs, which are sold under the three different brand labels – Larry Schultz Organic Farm, Lunds & Byerly’s, and Kowalski’s Organic Egg – have been recalled by the producer. The recalled eggs were packed in bulk and in 6-, 12-, and 18-egg cartons, and were distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, food wholesalers and foodservice companies in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
All eggs bearing the statements “On or Before Julian date 286 EXP NOV 12” or “286 NOV12” are included in the recall. Egg cartons bearing Plant Number 0630 or a “Sell by” date are not affected. The Department of Agriculture has provided a list of all grocery stores where the recalled eggs were sold.
There are some lessons to be drawn from this incident.
- Just because laying hens are free-range, this doesn’t mean that the environment, the hens and the eggs are Salmonella-free.
- Just because the conditions are organic, this doesn’t mean that the environment, the hens and the eggs are Salmonella-free.
- Just because a producing farm has fewer than 3,000 laying hens, this doesn’t mean that the environment, the hens and the eggs are Salmonella-free.
Finally, just because FDA has in place an Egg Safety Rule and a Food Safety Modernization Act, this doesn’t mean that US consumers can assume that their food supply is free from Salmonella and other pathogens.