GALT (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it will allow an Iowa egg farm linked to a widespread salmonella outbreak to resume selling its shell eggs to consumers.
Wright County Egg, Galt, recalled 380 million eggs earlier this year after the farm and another Iowa operation, Hillandale Farms, were linked to more than 1,600 salmonella illnesses. A subsequent FDA inspection of the farms revealed dead chickens, insects, rodents and towers of manure.
At the time of the recall, Wright County Egg products, produced under the Boomsma and Dutch Farms brands, were sold by Fareway Stores and Walgreens stores.
It is unknown if the store chains will resume selling eggs produced by Wright County Egg. Calls to both companies were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
In October, the FDA allowed Hillandale to resume shipping its eggs but sent Wright County Egg a letter saying the business could be shut down if the farm didn’t take corrective actions. FDA inspections showed far more violations at Wright County Egg than at Hillandale, which purchased chickens and feed from Wright.
FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Tuesday that Wright County Egg has implemented corrective measures and the government will allow the company to sell eggs from two laying houses at one of its six farms. The two barns are located in Clarion and will produce about 72,000 dozen eggs per week or about 3.7 million dozen eggs each year, according to a statement from Wright County Egg.
Since August, the company has only sold eggs to breaker facilities that pasteurize them.
“During the outbreak, I said that FDA would not agree to the sale of eggs to consumers from Wright County Egg until we had confidence that they could be shipped and consumed safely,” Hamburg said. “After four months of intensive work by the company and oversight, testing, and inspections by FDA, I am satisfied that time has come.”
The FDA said the company has sanitized the laying houses and removed the hens that were there, developed plans to prevent contamination, vaccinated hens for salmonella, rid the houses of rodents, disinfected its feed mill, corrected structural defects in the houses and started testing feed ingredients.
“My family and the nearly 200 people who work at our Iowa farms are committed to producing safe, high-quality eggs for our customers and to restoring the public’s trust in our ability to do just that,” said Wright County Egg CEO Peter DeCoster in a statement. “We recognize that we will have to continue to do more than is expected of us as we resume operations at our Iowa farms, both to ensure our ongoing compliance with FDA regulations and to reestablish successful relationships with our customers.
“Extraordinary measures have been put in place to put our egg farms at the forefront of food safety and to protect the health of our birds, and our team has worked tirelessly over the past several months to ensure that the past situation is never repeated.”
DeCoster said the company has been working with the FDA and other experts in making sure its egg remain safe.
“Our new practices and standards are even more stringent than what is required under FDA’s Egg Safety Rule,” he said. “We are working with outside experts in salmonella prevention, have increased testing under our vaccination program and have established rigorous operational changes and worker re-training programs. We are demanding from our suppliers and our internal team every reassurance necessary to be certain our eggs remain safe.”
DeCoster’s father, Jack DeCoster, owns the farm. The elder DeCoster has paid millions of dollars in state and federal fines over at least two decades for health, safety, immigration and environmental violations at several of his operations.
Reporter Laura Bird contributed to this report.