COLUMBIA - Salmonella cases are on the rise in the United States. The CDC reports there have already been 961 cases of salmonella in 2017, resulting in 215 hospitalizations. Laboratory findings link the increase in cases to contact with live poultry and the eggs they produce.
In 2016, Mid-Missouri reported 25 cases of the disease. Local farmers are taking extra precautions this year to protect both their livestock and the community from salmonella. David Boatright, owner of Fed from the Farm buying club, says for farmers to produce healthy eggs, they need to start with healthy chickens and healthy land.
"We keep everything here rotating," Boatright said. "You start with the cows. They graze down the pastures and maximize the health of the grass. Then we bring in the chickens. We keep them rotating pastures, so all their manure, their old feathers, when we move this open-bottom pen, that all leaves."
Boatright said using roll-out nest boxes allows eggs to remain as clean and safe as possible.
"The egg rolls down this small slant, away from the chicken so they can't step on it anymore or get it with their feathers. We go collect it and immediately store it in a cool, humidity controlled environment before washing."
Boatright said taking eggs directly to 40 degrees, the recommended storage temperature, before washing, can cause eggs to sweat and allow more bacteria the chance to get inside the porous shell.
"Our mission statement is healing the land, nourishing our community," Boatright said. "By mimicking natural processes, we are able to make sure our chickens stay healthy and the quality of our produce remains."
While farmers are taking extra precautions, Eric Stann, Community Relations Specialist at Boone County Public Health and Human Services, says consumers should also take precautions.
"We always emphasize the importance of washing your hands after working with any raw food, especially eggs," Stann said. "In addition, people should always keep eggs on the lowest shelf of their refrigerator so if an egg were to crack, it won't drip onto other foods and cause cross-contamination."
There is no vaccine for salmonellosis, and no way of looking at a food and knowing whether or not it will make you sick.
"You can't see salmonella because it's a bacterial infection," Stann said. "The best way to prevent the disease is just to take all the necessary steps beforehand and monitor your food."
To view a full list of CDC recommendations for preventing salmonella from eggs, click here.