THE DETAILS: The distributor, Wright County Egg, based in Galt, Iowa, initiated the egg recall after testing data revealed that certain batches had been contaminated with Salmonella, an infectious bacteria that causes fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea in healthy adults but potentially fatal infections in kids, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems. There have been confirmed cases of salmonellosis as a result of eating the eggs, but neither Wright County Egg nor the FDA have issued an official number of associated illnesses.
The eggs were sold to wholesalers and distributors who then resold them under various brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms, and Kemps. As of press time, neither the FDA nor the Egg Safety Board (operated by the industry group, United Egg Producers) had confirmed whether these eggs were sold directly to consumers or to restaurants and food service distributors. Rodale.com will issue updates as more information on the egg recall becomes available.
If you think you may have some of these eggs in your refrigerator, check the end of the carton for the "Julian" date, a three-digit number usually printed under the "Sell By" date and next to the plant identification number. The plant numbers included in the recall would be listed as "P-1026," "P-1413," or "P-1946," and the Julian dates range from 136 to 225, for example; P-1946 223.
WHAT IT MEANS: While egg-associated Salmonella infections can stem from fecal bacteria winding up on the outside of an egg, in many cases, they come from infected hens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In infected hens, Salmonella can infect the ovaries and contaminate their eggs before the shells are formed. Hens in both conventional, battery-cage operations and organic operations can be infected with Salmonella, but the good news is that it's less likely to happen in organic hens. A 2008 survey by the UK Soil Association, which certifies food in Britain as organic, found that large flocks of caged hens were 19 percent more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella than organically raised hens and 17 percent more likely to be contaminated than free-range or pastured hens. Whether the same would hold true in the US egg industry is unclear, but the Association did find that rates of Salmonella were directly proportional to the size of the flock. The larger the flock, the more likely the hens were to be contaminated. Chickens raised with organic practices can't be given routine antibiotics, which means they can't be crammed by the thousands into factory farms.
After you return your recalled eggs, look for organic or pastured eggs at the market:
• Know the difference. There are a lot of labels on egg cartons, and some are meaningful, while others are not. Find out how to buy the healthiest eggs before you shop.
• It's worth the extra cost. You may be wondering if organic eggs are worth it, and the answer is yes. Organic eggs don't contain leftover antibiotic residues as conventionally produced eggs do, and eggs from hens given adequate access to pasture also contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.