206 million eggs recalled: What you need to know about salmonella

Eggs recalled over possible salmonella

More than 206 million eggs distributed to restaurants and grocery stores across nine states have been recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. So far, 22 illnesses have been reported.

The bacteria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. 

"Consumers with these eggs shouldn't eat them," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted Saturday. "Throw them away or return them to place of purchase for credit or refund."

The eggs from Rose Acre Farms were distributed to consumers in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia through retail stores and restaurants. Affected packages are stamped with the  plant number P-1065 and Lot Codes 011 – 102.

Brands affected by the recall include:

  • Coburn Farms
  • Country Daybreak
  • Food Lion store brand
  • Glenview
  • Great Value (sold at Walmart)
  • Nelms
  • Sunshine Farms
  • Waffle House chain

Symptoms of salmonella

Infection with the salmonella bacteria often leads to diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness is known as salmonellosis. Symptoms typically develop between 12 and 72 hours after infection, and the illness usually lasts about four to seven days. Most healthy individuals recover without the need for treatment.

However, some cases turn so severe that patients need to be hospitalized. The infection can spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other parts of the body. These cases can turn deadly if not promptly treated with antibiotics.

Infants, older adults, and people with a weakened immune system are at an increased risk of serious complications from salmonella infection.

How common is salmonella infection?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses each year in the United States. Of those, 23,000 cases are serious enough that the patient had to be hospitalized. 

Salmonella is blamed for about 450 deaths in the U.S. each year.

In the majority of cases, food is the source of infection. Poultry, eggs, meat and dairy products are common culprits.

How does salmonella get into eggs?

Salmonella bacteria is present in the intestines and feces of infected humans and animals, including chickens. Live Science explains that even healthy-looking hens can harbor salmonella in their ovaries and sometimes lay eggs that were contaminated inside the chicken before the shells are even formed. 

The USDA requires producers to wash eggs to reduce the risk of surface contamination, and most large producers take an extra step to sanitize the shells. The egg industry also tests hens to try to detect ovarian bacteria.

Salmonella can be present in either the yolk or white of an egg. It does not have a suspect smell or taste, so there's no way for consumers to tell if a particular egg is contaminated.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that egg dishes be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria that may be present.

How to stay safe from salmonella

The CDC recommends the following steps to help keep you and your family safe from salmonella infection:

  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
  • Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons, because these animals can carry the bacteria.
  • Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.