The largest egg recall in history is creating more pressure on Congress to pass new legislation to give the Food & Drug Administration more authority.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), as of Thursday, eggs contaminated with salmonella had caused 273 confirmed cases of illness in California and Minnesota -- and that number is expected to rise, as 10 states are currently investigating outbreak clusters.
About 380 million eggs from a family-owned producer (Wright County Egg) based in Iowa have been voluntarily recalled. Nearly 2,000 illnesses linked to a specific strain of salmonella occurred between May and July, according to the Des Moines Register.
The recalled eggs are packaged under the brand names Albertsons, Dutch Farms, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Kemps, Glenview, Lucerne, Lund, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Shoreland and Pacific Coast.
Ironically, the outbreak comes just one month after new federal egg production safety regulations went into effect, a decade after they were first proposed by the FDA.
Jurisdiction over egg production regulation had been spread among numerous government agencies for two decades, and the FDA Thursday claimed that it did not have jurisdiction to inspect the Iowa facility until last month, when the egg regulation took effect, according to CSPI.
Legislation already passed in the House but is awaiting action in the Senate (S.510) would increase the FDA's oversight of producers/ processors and give the agency the authority to issue mandatory recalls of tainted products. Recalls are currently voluntary.
CSPI and other consumer protection groups, along with a number of federal legislators, have urged rapid passage of the legislation.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weak immune systems, and healthy people infected with the organism often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, according to a recall release from Hillandale Farms.
An FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition spokesperson told the Register that the outbreak could have been prevented if the new egg regulation had been in place sooner.