Eggs Recalled by Ohio’s Kenneth Miller Farms
A statement released in the relative quiet of this late Friday afternoon may solve a question that has been lingering over a local bar and restaurant in Western Ohio for the past few weeks. The statement, released by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, originated from Kenneth Miller Farms, a small operation located in New Lebanon, Ohio. The company announced that it was issuing a voluntary recall of its raw shell eggs, citing concerns of potential Salmonella enteritidis contamination.
Identifying a Pathogenic Threat
Early last week, the farm received a visit from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and according to Ohio Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Ashley McDonald, the Department took multiple environmental samples while it was on-site. That visit – or more specifically, what came in the aftermath of that visit, did not follow a track that any egg-producing operation would like. The Department of Agriculture, which had taken the samples back to its own labs for testing, sent word through McDonald that the department “brought the samples back here to our labs to test, and they did test positive for Salmonella E.,” an apparent reference to Salmonella Enteritidis, the most common strain of Salmonella found in our daily food supply.
With the exception of one or two institutional buyers discussed below, the eggs were sold directly by the farm to consumers, making it likely that those who purchased the eggs are aware that they are in possession of that specific product. However, for the avoidance of doubt, the egg cartons associated with the Kenneth Miller Farms raw shell egg recall are identified by “Miller Farms, New Lebanon, Ohio.”
Although officials have established the presence of Salmonella at Kenneth Miller Farms and in the eggs produced there, the bacteria has not yet undergone a complete genetic evaluation, which, once completed, will yield the pathogen’s “DNA Fingerprint.” In order to establish whether the recalled eggs played a part in any prior or ongoing Salmonella outbreak, particularly where a high level of certainty is desired, the strain’s DNA Fingerprint must be obtained to compare to the “Fingerprint” found in samples of contaminated food, if such samples exist, or in the test results of outbreak victims.
Working Together for a Cleaner Farm and a Cleaner Future
The farm will have to undergo full-scale environmental cleaning as a result of the positive test. McDonald explained that the Department “want[s] to make sure that the pathogen that was there is no longer there before they can start producing eggs again.” The process includes sanitation procedures to eliminate salmonella, and all elements of the cleaning process must be completed before the farm can resume egg production. The Department of Agriculture, McDonald states, “will be working with the farm on an ongoing basis to make sure they’re doing their sanitation and getting back up and running.”
Locating the Eggs: Fogginess Prevails Despite Direct Sales and Limited Institutional Buyers
The eggs that are involved in this recall were sold from the farm (1) directly to consumers and (2) to either one or two Ohio establishments. While Kenneth Miller Farms stated that a portion of the eggs being recalled had been sold to the Mudlick Tavern (now doing business as “Mudlick Tap House”), a woman who claims to be the tavern’s owner says that her establishment has not made a purchase from the farm in a long time. In yet another account, a Mudlick employee reported throwing away all eggs purchased from the source farm and continued on to say that there had been no issues with salmonella at the establishment. Kenneth Miller Farms has not responded to requests from multiple sources for clarification or verification at this time.
There is no question as to the identity of the second institutional buyer. Lucky’s Taproom, the restaurant referenced in the first sentence of this article, purchased large numbers of raw shell eggs from Kenneth Miller Farms.
Finding Closure Close to Home: Pinpointing the Source in an Old Outbreak
Earlier this month, the popular Dayton restaurant had to close its doors as the direct result of a Salmonella outbreak that involved approximately 70 suspected outbreak illnesses at the time. Fortunately, the number of cases associated with the outbreak was dramatically lower, with a final count of approximately 20 outbreak-related illnesses. The source of the outbreak was positively identified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture as house-made mayonnaise, which tested positive for Salmonella during the outbreak investigation. However, the investigators could not – at that point – positively identify which component of the mixture was responsible for the outbreak, though most had strong suspicions.
“The eggs they were using to make the mayonnaise at Lucky’s were not pasteurized, so they weren’t using any kill-step in the process to kill off the pathogen,” McDonald explained. She continued by stating that this pointed to the eggs as “potentially being involved” in the outbreak. The FDA strongly endorses pasteurization, noting that consumption of unpasteurized products is much more likely to result in illness than consuming the pasteurized counterpart: in fact, a person who drinks raw milk is 150 times more likely to contract a foodborne illness than one who drinks the pasteurized product. McDonald reinforced the FDA’s message, stating that “[i]f you’re making homemade mayo or anything else, you should be using pasteurized eggs.”
All things said, despite not being able to prove what component of the mayo had sickened 20 patrons, the dust had started to settle in Dayton, and Lucky’s reopened its doors. It had been less than a week – the Taproom reopened last Saturday for dinner – when the farm announced its recall. It would be incredibly easy to make the jump and conclude that the eggs were in fact the component of the mayo that caused 20 cases of salmonellosis earlier this month, a jump made even more tempting by the promise of total closure on the other side.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet have all the answers and despite a plethora of circumstantial evidence, there is no scientific evidence linking the contaminated mayonnaise to the contaminated recalled eggs. Well, at least not yet.
The staff at the Department of Agriculture will have to isolate the DNA Fingerprint for the Salmonella found in the recalled eggs to see if a match can be made with the salmonella that sickened 20 in the community. “The environmental samples were sent over to the Ohio Department of Health to see if the two could be linked,” said McDonald. She continued by stating that the testing has not come back yet, “so we can’t say 100 percent that the eggs did in fact cause the illness. However, it is likely due to the fact that we know where the eggs came from, and we have a salmonella positive on that farm.”
Those looking for total closure or rock-solid proof – or perhaps both – are left waiting.
Hopefully, that wait will come to an end soon.
For information about the Lucky’s Taproom outbreak, the ongoing egg recall or any other food poisoning outbreaks, call the experienced food poisoning attorneys of Ron Simon & Associates at 1-888-335-4901.