There have been growing concerns about the eroding safety of our food supplies and Supply Chain Matters has had far too many postings noting incidents of contamination affecting the safety of food-related supply chains.  I suppose that the latest incident involving the recall of hundreds of millions of eggs in the U.S. should not be a surprise, but the scope and circumstances are again rather troubling.  In this new era of social media explosion, these types of incidents can bring tremendous amounts of negative perception and damage to brands. They also cause too many disruptions for supply professionals.

On August 13, Wright County Farms of Galt, Iowa, an entity associated with DeCoster Farms, voluntarily recalled 228 million “shell eggs” because of the potential for Salmonella Enteritidis contamination. These eggs were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers, supermarkets and foodservice companies across eight U.S. states, involving eggs shipped from May 16, 2010.  Thirteen different brand names were involved in this recall, and because whole eggs are the basis for an ingredient in other food products, there are probably unspecified aspects as to the total scope of this recall, and the potential for human illness.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recent news release outlining the details of this recall.

As I pen this commentary, the recall has now expanded to 380 million eggs involving seventeen U.S. states. All five farms owned by Wright County Farms are under suspicion as sources.  An article on Reuters notes that the amount of eggs recalled are equivalent to nearly all the eggs consumed by all Americans in two days, which is rather a significant exposure. Nearly 2000 cases of salmonella were officially reported to U.S. government agencies from May thru July, a period where 700 cases would have been considered the norm. The U.S. FDA has fifteen investigators currently working on tracking the sources or potential causes of the infection. This recall has significant supply chain implications because uncooked eggs can end up salad dressing, meringue pie or other food or restaurant items.

As was noted in recent recalls such as pistachios, potentially contaminated product has been in the supply chain, undetected until now, for at least three months.  One also has to wonder why an egg enterprise with such a wide distribution of product and private brand volume had this type of occurrence.  The FDA notes that new egg safety standards took effect on July 9 which requires producers to safeguard feed and water supplies and test poultry houses for salmonella, In the case of Wright Farms, one has to speculate if these regulations came too late.

Bob Ferrari