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Half a billion US eggs are recalled

More than half a billion eggs have been recalled in the US investigation of a salmonella outbreak that has expanded to include a second Iowa farm. The outbreak has already hit more than 1,000 people and the toll of illnesses is expected to increase.

Iowa's Hillandale Farms said it was recalling more than 170 million eggs after laboratory tests confirmed salmonella. The company did not say if its action was connected to the recall by Wright County Egg, another Iowa farm that recalled 380 million eggs earlier this week.

The latest recall puts the total number of potentially tainted eggs at about 550 million.

FDA spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy said the two recalls are related. The strain of salmonella bacteria causing the poisoning is the same in both cases, salmonella enteritidis.

Federal officials said it's one of the largest egg recalls in recent history. Americans consume about 220 million eggs a day, based on industry estimates. Iowa is the leading egg producing state.

The eggs recalled were distributed under the brand names Hillandale Farms, Sunny Farms, Sunny Meadow, Wholesome Farms and West Creek. The new recall applies to eggs sold between April and August.

Hillandale said the eggs were distributed to grocery distribution centres, retail groceries and food service companies which service or are located in fourteen states, including Arkansas, California, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Thoroughly cooking eggs can kill the bacteria but health officials are recommending people throw away or return the recalled eggs.

A food safety expert at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, said the source of the outbreak could be rodents, shipments of contaminated hens, or tainted feed. Microbiology professor Patrick McDonough said he was not surprised to hear about two recalls involving different egg companies, because in other outbreaks there have also been multiple sources.

The salmonella bacteria is not passed from hen to hen, but usually from rodent droppings to chickens, he added. This strain of bacteria is found inside a chicken's ovaries, and gets inside an egg.

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