Tainted Eggs Infect Thousands with Salmonella

A sign warns customers of the recall of certain lots of eggs that had been previously sold at a supermarket in Los Angeles Aug. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
AP Photo
The average American consumes about 260 eggs a year, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker. Now the largest ever salmonella outbreak from eggs is making consumers sick - about 2,000 from May to July and the number is rising.

Carol Lobato ate eggs at a Denver restaurant.

"The shaking, I had a fever," Lobato told CBS News. "I had vomiting at the beginning. Just sick, sick, sick."

The outbreak has been traced to Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, a company with a long history of environmental and labor violations. Seven million chickens at the sprawling plant produce 5.5 million eggs a day.

Now owner John DeCoster is being sued by victims of this outbreak. The recalled eggs are packaged under more than a dozen different names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemp. The sickening bacteria can be both on the shell and in the yolk.

Brand Names and Plant Numbers
9 Signs of Salmonella Poisoning

"They get in egg laying houses by feed and water and environmental contamination infecting the chickens themselves," said Dr. Chris Braden, a CDC medical epidemiologist.

When this outbreak started egg producers largely were inspecting themselves. But last month the Food and Drug Administration imposed mandatory controls including random egg testing. The CDC says the new rules might have limited this outbreak.

Meanwhile they say to thoroughly cook all eggs, or better yet -- return suspect cartons to the store or throw them out.

How to Tell Good Eggs from Bad Eggs

CBS News correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton reports the key information for consumers to look for is the plant number, which is displayed at the side of the carton, Ashton said. The numbers to avoid are 1026, 1413 and 1946. The numbers are preceded by the letter "P."

The dates (recorded in the "Julian format") range from 136 to 225, according to a statement by the Egg Safety Center. For example, eggs in a carton marked with the number P-1026 137 should not be eaten.