Will Expanded Recall Scramble Consumer Appetite for Eggs?

Wight County Egg expanded its recall Thursday to 380 million eggs as a result of salmonella.
Wight County Egg expanded its recall Thursday to 380 million eggs as a result of salmonella.

If one bad egg can spoil the batch, what about 380 million? Following reports of food poisoning linked to salmonella, Wright County Egg expanded its egg recall Thursday to all of its five farms, up from its initial recall of eggs from three farms last week. That bumps up the number of affected brands to 20 from 13 and brings the total number of recalled eggs to 380 million, according to an announcement by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

Iowa-based Wright County Egg accounts for 2% of U.S. egg production, according to the United Egg Producers. (See a list of the brands and the lot numbers below.) But the recall's potential impact could be much greater.

As the recall expands, the $8.2 billion egg industry may face fallout from a nervous public that may lump all egg producers into the same do-not-eat category, similar to the backlash felt by the peanut, spinach, bagged salad and beef industries following recalls of those products over the past years .

"When we had the spinach recall, the advice was not to eat any [bagged or fresh] spinach at all, versus spinach from a particular brand. But one interesting thing that happened was people who gave up on spinach also gave up on bagged salads because some of them look like spinach," said William Hallman, director of Rutgers' Food Policy Institute and chair of its human ecology department.

Spoiling the Batch

In fact, 18 percent of people who stopped eating spinach also stopped buying other types of bagged produce, according to a 2007 Food Institute Policy report on the 2006 E.coli-related spinach recall. And the beef industry also took a hit over the mad cow disease scare that swept the nation nearly a decade ago.

Consumers, who witnessed numerous beef recalls in the early 2,000, dramatically reduced their beef consumption. Of the folks who were aware of mad cow disease, one in five, or roughly 20%, ate less beef, according to a 2004 Food Policy Institute report. And out of that group, 5% gave up beef altogether, with a quarter of that 5% saying they didn't plan to eat it ever again.

Only one egg producer, Wright County Egg, is affected by the current recall. But as awareness about salmonella in eggs grows, it may lead to more egg producers coming forward with their own self-imposed recalls. The FDA has no jurisdiction to mandate food recalls, with the exception of baby formula.

"It is too early to determine if the industry is feeling the side effects of the recall," a spokeswoman for the United Egg Producers wrote in an email.

Side Effects

Potential industry side effects could mimic that of other industries. In the case of the beef industry, those who stopped eating beef because of the mad cow scare and recalls found 27% said they would resume eating it after six months had passed, 24% never again, 11% six months to a year and 11% within a month, for example.

Spinach eaters were faster to return to the plate. Of those folks who ate spinach before the recall, 44% said they planned to eat spinach two weeks after the recall was listed. Meanwhile, 51% of survey respondents said on average they would eat spinach again within two months after the recall was listed. And 5% of respondents said no way.

The speed that consumers return to eating recalled foods depends on a number of factors, said Hallman. They include the past relationship the food producer has with the consumer, the trust in the brand and product, the explanation given for the recall and fix that's been put in place, and whether there are other alternatives for the recalled product.

The potential health problems of eating the recalled food may also play a role. In the case of food poisoning from salmonella, th include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, according to the FDA. In rare cases, some people may develop severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.


The Wright County Egg recall currently includes these brands:

  • Lucerne

  • Albertson

  • Albertson's

  • Mountain Dairy

  • Ralph's

  • Ralphs

  • Boomsma's

  • Boomsma

  • Sunshine

  • Hillandale

  • Trafficanda

  • Farm Fresh

  • Shoreland

  • Lund

  • Dutch Farms

  • Kemps

  • James Farms

  • Glenview

  • Kemps

  • Pacific Coast

The affected lot numbers for these brands, which can be found at the end of the egg carton, are: P-1026, P-1413, P-1946, P-1720, and P-1942, with three-digit Julian date numbers 136-229.