Food safety was the clear focus in August’s nationwide egg recall, but the incident also highlights the need for strict control of packaging materials.

Dutch Farms officials were surprised when their brand was caught up in the August nationwide egg recall. Expiration codes on the ends of cartons (insert) include the plant ID number, which follows the letter P on the right.

In the scramble to recall eggs from plants tied to Salmonella contamination, one wholesale distributor cried foul, maintaining it did not have a business relationship with either of the Iowa egg suppliers at the center of the recall.

In an August 18 news release, Dutch Farms maintained the recall announced five days earlier involved unauthorized Dutch Farms egg cartons. It was one of 17 brands recalled by Galt, IA-based Wright County Egg. Dutch Farms, which maintains a DSD network in eight Midwestern states, distributes eggs, cheese and other refrigerated and frozen products under its name.

The nationwide recall of shell eggs was touched off when a network of public health laboratories noticed a four-fold increase in weekly cases of Salmonella Enteritidis infections, beginning in late May. Epidemiologists eventually concluded that shell eggs were the likely source of the infections, and traceback investigations led authorities to Wright County Egg. The company’s shell eggs were sold to distributors and wholesalers in 22 states and Mexico. The recall expanded to 380 million eggs packed at three of the firm’s plants between April 9 and August 18. A second Iowa egg producer, Hillandale Farms, subsequently was identified as a potential source of contaminated eggs, pushing the nationwide recall to more than 500 million.

While track and trace systems and sanitation protocols dominated the post-recall discussion, the Dutch Farms situation highlights the role of packaging materials and their distribution. Dutch Farms eggs distributed to Walgreen’s stores in seven states were recalled, yet Dutch Farms had not placed a purchase order with Wright County since 2006. “It’s just a shame that a farm in Iowa with whom we have no association can cause so many to be so concerned,” Dutch Farms President Brian Boomsma says.

Additionally, Dutch Farms Spokeswoman Karen Van Prooyan says Dutch Farms has not done business since 2007 with the Iowa-based distributor who delivered its egg cartons to Walgreen’s in those states. She vows Dutch Farms “will come to the bottom of” how its brand was caught up in the recall.

“We do not know who obtained packaging from us,” Van Prooyan says, though she speculates a packaging supplier might have mistakenly shipped the cartons. Thousands of calls from concerned buyers of Dutch Farms eggs were fielded in the wake of the recall, she adds, and only two cartons were from affected farms.

Egg consumption dipped in the weeks following the recall, and the Food and Drug Administration recommended consumers purchase liquid eggs and pasteurized shell eggs to lower their risk of infection. “The ironic part,” notes Van Prooyan, “is that our owner is a part-owner in National Pasteurized Eggs,” a major supplier of those products.