This post is by SmartBlog on Restaurants and Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.
Two Iowa egg producers have recalled more than half a billion eggs during the past few weeks over concerns that the products from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa were tainted with salmonella bacteria. More than 2,000 U.S. consumers have been sickened with salmonella since May, including 1,300 or more suspected of contracting the illness from eggs subject to the current massive recall. Media reports say some of the affected consumers appear to have been sickened after eating at restaurants in several states including Colorado, California and Minnesota, all states that have seen higher-than-usual numbers of salmonella cases this summer.
One FDA official noted the bad timing of new enforcement efforts, designed to prevent such outbreaks, which took effect last month. Had the FDA had the authority to inspect egg farms before the new rules went into effect, it’s likely the new inspection procedures would have unearthed the contaminated egg source before the eggs entered the food supply, Sherri McGarry, emergency coordinator for the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said last week.
In other regulatory efforts, the U.S. Senate is pushing a bill designed to tighten food safety standards at farms and production facilities across the industry, including giving the FDA more resources to beef up inspections and conferring the power to mandate rather than just suggest food recalls when tests indicate contamination. The House passed a version of the bill last year, but the Senate declined to take up the issue before adjourning for the August recess. Now, the head of the FDA is using the egg recall to illustrate the need for stronger oversight.
At the restaurant level, inspectors suspect the usual suspects in the current outbreak — dishes made with undercooked or raw eggs. While the FDA urges consumers and restaurants to buy pasteurized eggs, and the liquid eggs used in restaurants are always pasteurized, the majority of in-shell eggs sold in the U.S. are still the raw variety. Although that may be changing: Since word of the massive recall began hitting media outlets, demand for pasteurized eggs is rising fast, says one producer.
It may be a while before there’s a final tally on exactly how many consumers and restaurant patrons became ill after eating infected eggs, but that’s not stopping lawyers from getting into the act. One Wisconsin restaurant patron is suing the restaurant she suspects of serving her salmonella-tainted eggs. It’s likely that this first case is just the beginning — the plaintiff is represented by Marler Clark, a law firm that bills itself as having “represented victims of every major food borne illness outbreak since 1993.”
Are you getting many questions about egg safety from guests? How are you handling them? Have you changed the way you’re sourcing and preparing eggs in your restaurant?
YinYang via iStock