State and federal public health officials have not named restaurants that are implicated in a Salmonella outbreak. Gravel Ridge Farms, identified as the egg supplier, recalled an unspecified number of eggs Saturday.
As of Sept. 7, Alabama and Tennessee had reported a total 14 confirmed Salmonella infection cases, according to a notice posted yesterday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sick people reported illness onset dates of July 10 through Aug. 7.
The CDC is urging people to check their homes for the recalled eggs and throw them away, even if no one in the household became ill after eating them. Additional sick people are likely to be identified because the recall was not issued until Sept. 8 and it can take up to four weeks for confirmed Salmonella infections to be reported to the CDC.
Two of nine people for whom the information was available have required hospitalization. Most of the 14 confirmed patients are in Tennessee, with only two Alabama cases reported to the CDC.
“Thirteen of 14 (93 percent) people interviewed reported eating restaurant dishes made with eggs,” the CDC reported.
“These restaurants reported using shell eggs in the dishes eaten by ill people. FDA and state partners traced the source of the shell eggs supplied to these restaurants to Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman, AL.”
Neither the CDC nor the Food and Drug Administration named the restaurants where the sick people dined.
The egg company reported in its recall notice that the affected eggs were distributed to “primarily in restaurants and retail stores” in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The FDA posted a list of grocery stores that received eggs from Gravel Ridge Farms with the farm’s recall notice.
The recall covers all of the eggs distributed by the company from June 25 through Sept. 6. The recalled eggs — sold in one-dozen cartons and 2.5 dozen flats — have use-by dates from July 25 through Oct. 3. All of the eggs have the UPC number 7-06970-38444-6.
“The company has been cooperative and swiftly ceased distribution of the eggs as FDA, local officials, and the company continue their investigation into what caused the problem,” according to the FDA’s outbreak statement, which the agency posted Sept. 10.
Patients in Alabama
Alabama officials have not identified a restaurant that catered an event on July 30 that left people sick. Media in the area are reporting 14 of 17 people who attended became ill. Laboratory testing confirmed that at least two of them were infected with Salmonella bacteria. Officials did not report where the event was.
“They say those who ate an under-cooked food item made with eggs were almost four times more likely to become ill than those who did not consume the food,” according to WAFF-TV channel 4 in Huntsville, AL.
Advice to consumers
Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled eggs and developed symptoms of food poisoning should seek medical attention. Ill people should tell their doctors of the possible exposure to Salmonella so specific tests can be performed for accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms of foodborne illnesses, including Salmonella, can include diarrhea that is often bloody, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Some people also develop fevers when they have salmonellosis, the infection caused by Salmonella bacteria.
People who are otherwise healthy usually recover within a few days. Other people are at high-risk of developing serious and sometimes life-threatening illnesses. High-risk groups include young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.
“Even if some eggs were eaten and no one got sick, do not eat them. Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where recalled eggs were stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator,” the CDC outbreak notice said.
Consumers and restaurants should always handle and cook eggs safely, the CDC advised, to avoid foodborne illness from raw eggs. It is important to handle and prepare all fresh eggs and egg products carefully:
Eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny. Egg dishes such as casseroles and quiches should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F or hotter.
Make sure that foods that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as eggs over easy or hollandaise sauce, are made only with pasteurized eggs. Pasteurization kills disease-causing germs.
Wash hands and items that came into contact with raw eggs — including countertops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards — with soap and water.