County escapes large egg recall

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, August 28, 2010

Despite the massive egg recall, stores in Austin have remain relatively untouched. - Eric Johnson/

While the recall of millions of eggs from two Iowa farms prompted Austin’s Walmart to pull eggs from the shelves, Mower County seems to have escaped the salmonella panic sweeping much of the nation.

Two Iowa farms, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, recalled about 550 million eggs last week after learning that salmonella may have sickened as many as 1,300 people.

The effects of the recall can be seen in a number of sectors — from restaurants to grocery stores. But for Austin, local grocers, farmers and restaurant owners say the issue hasn’t created a significant dent in business.

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While the affected eggs are limited to the two Iowa farms, some worry the fear caused by the incident could hurt the industry. However, Darrell Ingvaldson, an agent with the Mower County Farm Bureau, said it likely won’t have a lasting effect.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect the egg industry that much,” Ingvaldson said.

He noted that recalls like this happen from time to time, and people keep buying the recalled product.

Serving up eggs

That’s a trend that has been seen at area restaurants, as well. Local restaurants owners said that while some customers are a bit more concerned where their eggs are coming from, they haven’t seen many turn away from an old fashioned egg breakfast.

“We’ve had some people asking where we get our eggs from,” said John Clark, owner of Johnny’s Main Event in Austin. “We get all of our eggs from Minnesota.”

Scott Johnson, owner of Jerry’s Other Place, said he’s seen more customers opting to order eggs a little more well done.

“I’ve just noticed they’re eating them a little more over-hard and over-medium,” he said. “They’re having them cooked a little more.”

Johnson said his eggs come from a Minnesota supplier. He hasn’t had any issues with tainted eggs and said that his supply company told him they were confident with the product. As a precaution, the company told Johnson they would pay for any eggs he may need to throw away, though Johnson doesn’t see that as a concern.

Customers at Kenny’s Oak Grill haven’t quit their regular breakfast habits either, said Kenny Knutson, owner of the restaurant.

“There has been some comment,” he said, “but it’s mostly kind of humorous.”

Knutson said the restaurant doesn’t order eggs from the Iowa egg producers that have been pegged as the root of the problem.

“We’ve checked it out totally and everything we have and buy is good,” Knutson said.

As for sales, Knutson hasn’t noticed any reductions. He said when it comes to those who regularly order eggs, they stick to what they like.

Grocery stores deal with stock

So far, only Walmart has had to remove eggs from their shelves. The brands removed included Sparboe Farms, Dean Foods, Hillandale Farms and Cal-Maine Foods. The brands were pulled because they were linked to Wright County Eggs, the source of the salmonella outbreak, according to a statement released by Walmart. So far, 630 Walmarts in 20 states, in addition to seven Sam’s Clubs, have had to recall their eggs.

Todd Hefler, store manager of Hy Vee in Austin, said the store avoided the recall because it doesn’t carry the lines of eggs linked to the salmonella poisoning.

“Lots people have asked us if we’re involved, and we keep saying, ‘no,’” Hefler said. “We even put a sign up so they can know.”

While this summer’s egg recall has highlighted the issue, salmonella is always occasionally present in the roughly 80 billion eggs sold in their shell in the U.S. each year. The harmful bacteria typically contaminate one out of every 10,000 to 20,000 eggs.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report