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    Salmonella-poisoned eggs make a strong argument for local, organic, family farms.

    I love eggs, but I hate food poisoning more.

    I'm betting so do the more than 2,000 people who have been sickened by eating tainted eggs produced by factory chicken farms in Iowa. After all, no one I know enjoys the impact salmonella has on their digestive tract, since it induces vomiting, dizziness, diahrrea, fever, abdominal cramps, blood infections and even death. 

    Egg hand  Investigators are still trying to understand how this potentially lethal bacterium was able to infect so many eggs in such a short period of time. One possible cause is getting a lot of attention: the way the laying hens were raised. Conventional poultry operations raise millions of chickens at a time, often in confined spaces and under filthy and inhumane conditions that reduce the ability of the animals to fight off germs. When disease hits, it spreads like wildfire. But with a fire you can see the flames coming. With salmonella, you don't know it's got you until you're doubled over in pain or on your way to the emergency room.

    For now, eggs in 14 states in the midwest have been recalled. The good news is that this amounts to less than 1 percent of all eggs produced in the U.S. Still, disease outbreaks like these remind all of us to be vigilant about the food we eat. The following precautions will help you stay healthy:

    * Check for tainted eggs. Eggs being recalled are packaged under the following brand names: Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942. If you find any eggs that contain these dates or plant numbers, return them to the store immediately.

    * Throwaway cracked or discolored eggs. Even if they're not tainted with salmonella, they could be harboring other "bugs" that could make you sick. It's better to be safe than sorry.

    * Buy eggs produced locally on small family farms. Small farms generally produce safer food because farmers have fewer animals to police. If an animal does get sick, chances are the farmer will find it and treat it before an entire flock becomes a threat. If the farms are certified organic, so much the better. You can find the nearest family farm here. If you're interested, take a look at Smith Meadows Farm. I buy their eggs (see their chickens in the picture below) at my local farmers market on Sundays.

    * Follow the same steps for preparing raw eggs that you would for raw chicken: handle carefully, cook thoroughly, and wash your hands with hot, soapy water when you're finished.

    * Avoid eating raw eggs in any form. Yes, that means skip the raw cookie dough, the raw cake batter, the raw muffin mix. If making scrambled eggs or french toast, you can tell the egg is cooked through because it won't look shiny and wet.

    * Keep eggs refrigerated until you use them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that eggs be kept in a refrigerator cooled to 45 degrees F.

    Free-range chickens * Raise your own chickens. Believe it or not, raising backyard chickens has become increasingly popular, and not just in rural communities. Many municipalities are re-considering zoning laws to allow people to keep chickens in their backyards; this is even true in dense urban areas like Seattle, Washington and Boston, Massachusetts.

    For more information on salmonella, here's our recap of the salmonella that infected peanut butter last year. 

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    Avery

    Good article except for the fact that salmonella is an organism and completely natural. This means that it can be in organic or backyard hens. In fact if you look into it, the last egg recall was on organic eggs for salmonella. I'm all for buying local and organic but it really does not mean it is a safer product. The peanut butter producer from the recall a few years ago was USDA organic certified as well. I have been buying pasteurized eggs for recipes that require un or undercooked eggs and after this recall I will just use pasteurized eggs for everything.

    Ecover US Blog

    Agreed. But locally produced eggs, though they could also be contaminated at some point, would not become this widespread and have the potential to sicken so many people so quickly. Food for thought. Pun intended.
    -Deb for Ecover

    Diane MacEachern

    Of course, any chicken or any egg could contract salmonella. The advantage of supporting local, family farm operations is that these farms are usually much, much smaller than factory farms. Disease outbreaks could be detected much sooner, and wouldn't spread to so many eggs so fast.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Sian Wu

    I was super dismayed to return from our vacation in France (where we enjoyed lovely, farm fresh eggs from our neighbor) to hear about this recall. We've since bought safer, cage-free eggs, but noticed the egg yolks are not that yellow. I wonder what sacrifices are being made on nutrition for the sake of safety?

    Diane MacEachern

    Good question. Can you contact the egg company and find out what, exactly, they're feeding the chickens? Will you let us know when you find out?

    fateme_egg_eater

    Thanks for the article. Good to know. But now there are a lot of questions in my head that I should search to find their answers.

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