Eggs, Beef and Produce: The Top 10 Food Recalls of 2010

food recallsIn a year that saw a massive number of food recalls, 2010 may go down as the year of the egg.

Two Iowa egg farms in August recalled more than a half-billion eggs after salmonella contamination sickened more than 2,400 people across the country. The salmonella was tracked to feed used at the farms. Authorities said it was the largest outbreak of salmonella enteritidus since records started being kept in the 1970s to track such outbreaks.Just how common is the salmonella contamination? Before you chow down on sunny-side up eggs or Caesar salad -- both have increased risk of contamination because of lightly cooked or raw eggs -- keep in mind the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in every 20,000 eggs in the U.S. is contaminated with salmonella enteritidis. Only 30% of the roughly 65 billion eggs produced in this country each year gets pasteurized -- so basically the odds of eating a contaminated egg are high enough to make you lose your appetite.

Luckily for consumers, thorough cooking kills salmonella bacteria. But about 40,000 people still get sick each year from salmonellosis and the CDC says the actual number of infections could be 30 times higher.

Of course, salmonella isn't the only foodborne bacteria out there. E. coli is another villan in the bacteria battle. Listeria infections from contaminated food sicken 2,500 people each year -- 500 of those result in deaths.

Here are nine other notable recalls to round out 2010's top 10 food recalls:
  • Celery: Sangar Fresh Cut Produce, a San Antonio processing plant, was shut down after recalled chopped celery prepared there was linked to at least four deaths and possibly a total of 10 cases of listeria infection. The processing plant supplies produce -- including lettuce, salads, cut vegetables and fruit -- in the San Antonio metro area.
  • Black pepper: Rhode Island's Daniele International recalled more than a million pounds of salami and Italian sausage sold under its label, as well as popular deli brands Boar's Head and Dietz & Watson after at least 230 people in 44 states were sickened by meat tainted with salmonella. The company blamed the outbreak on black pepper used to coat the meats. Just a month later, another black pepper recall sent a ripple effect through food manufacturers, prompting recalls from McCain Foods USA, Dutch Valley Food Distributors and others.
  • Beef: At least seven people were sickened from e. coli after eating beef from Valley Meat Co. of Modesto, Calif. The company recalled about a million pounds of frozen ground beef patties and bulk ground beef products.
  • Cheese: Costco and Whole Foods Markets warned consumers not to eat cheese from California's Bravo Farms after some of its cheese was linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 25 people in five states.
  • Lettuce: Fresh Express salad products -- including its Romaine lettuce -- were recalled three times this year over possible contamination with e. coli, salmonella and listeria.
  • Lunch meat: Zemco Industries recalled 380,000 pounds of lunch meat used in Walmart's Marketside Grab and Go Sandwiches sold nationwide because it may have been contaminated with listeria.
  • Frozen vegetables: The Pictsweet Co. recalled frozen vegetables it packaged for Walmart stores nationwide, as well as Kroger stores in the Southeast United States. The packages potentially had glass shards in them.
  • Lobster: Lobster meat was recalled nationwide after tests showed it could be contaminated with the listeria.
  • Raw milk cheese: Morningland Dairy of Missouri recalled almost 70,000 pounds of artisan, raw milk cheese it sold nationwide -- including at Whole Foods Market -- because it may be contaminated with listeria and also possibly staphylococcus. The cheese is still at the center of a legal battle and the dairy has not sold any cheese for several months. Morningland is one of two dairies fighting FDA orders to destroy their cheeses that have been potentially contaminated with harmful bacteria.
All of these massive outbreaks come as Congress is considering the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which is geared toward overhauling a hodgepodge of laws put in place over the last 70 years. The act seeks to improve inspections, give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recall authority and set food safety standards -- moves that would finally bring the country's food safety laws into the 21st Century. A bill passed in the Senate on Nov. 30 and it now awaits a vote by the House.
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