Iowa Egg Farmer "Horrified" Over Salmonella Outbreak
An egg farmer at the center of the salmonella outbreak that's sickened more than 1,500 Americans apologized Wednesday, saying he was "horrified" over the August recall of millions of eggs. "We apologize to everyone who may have been sickened by eating our eggs. I pray several times each day for all of them and for their improved health," Austin "Jack" DeCoster, owner of Wright County Egg, said during a congressional hearing in D.C. Orland Bethel, CEO of Hillandale Farms—one of two Iowa egg farms implicated in the recall—refused to testify, the Associated Press reports. The hearing, examining the farms' operations, could lead to stricter food safety legislation. Victims who testified described suffering from diarrhea, fevers, stress, and a loss of stamina—as well as time spent in the intensive care unit. DeCoster says an ingredient sold to his egg farm by an outside supplier may be to blame for the outbreak. In August, inspectors with the Food and Drug Administration found numerous sanitation violations at Wright County Egg, including bird droppings and feeding bin holes that rodents could squeeze through. But contrary to agency statements, DeCoster says the FDA inspected the company's feed mill in May and found no deficiencies.
Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs should serve as a wakeup call for prevention, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. While sometimes it's impossible to avoid contracting salmonella from eggs, taking precautions can help lower your risk.
Avoid Salmonella From Eggs: 4 Steps to Take Now
The CDC offers some basic prevention tips on its website like keeping eggs refrigerated at all times, discarding cracked or dirty eggs, and washing hands, utensils, and surfaces after contact with raw eggs. But some of the agency's tips need a little more clarity, Kotz reports. These include: "Eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm." In other words, solid. Avoid soft-boiled eggs, runny scrambled eggs, and eggs prepared sunny side up. And "refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods promptly." No, that doesn't mean you have to refrigerate every loaf of bread, cake, or muffin that's baked with eggs. But you should store the egg salad, casseroles, and quiches at once, or at the very least, don't leave them outside the fridge for more than two hours. [Read more: Avoid Salmonella From Eggs: 4 Steps to Take Now.]
Another way to avoid food-borne illnesses? Give your kitchen a restaurant-style makeover.
Would Your Kitchen Pass a Restaurant Inspection?
If a restaurant inspector barged into your kitchen tomorrow, would it pass the test—or would he threaten to shut you down? Clipboard in hand, he'd check the temperature inside the refrigerator. Warmer than 40 degrees? Violation. Raw meat stored above ready-to-eat food? More points off. Same goes for dirty, cracked eggs, and swollen, leaking, or rusted cans of food. And don't even think about smoking while you're cooking.
At least one in seven home kitchens would flunk a restaurant-type health inspection, a recent study by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health suggests, and only three out of five would earn an A or B. Since food consumed at home is the source of roughly half of the nation's annual 76 million cases of food-borne illnesses, that's worrisome, U.S. News reports. "Sometimes we get a little sloppy in our own kitchens," says Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and nutrition professor at Boston University. "Whether you're bringing raw food into your home to prepare or leftovers from a restaurant, you have to do your part to help reduce the risk of coming down with a food-borne illness." [Read more: Would Your Kitchen Pass a Restaurant Inspection?]