Ledge Light warning about eggs at Groton, Waterford Walmarts was false alarm

On Tuesday afternoon, staff at the Ledge Light Health District put out the alarm: Eggs sold at the Groton and Waterford Walmart stores may have been part of a recall of more than 206 million eggs that the FDA said may have been connected to several salmonella outbreaks last month.

A local shopper called the Ledge Light offices Monday night to report that cartons of eggs they purchased at a local Walmart were labeled with the same plant number and packing dates included in the recall. A Ledge Light staff member also spotted a Facebook post from another local resident who matched the numbers on their carton to the recall Monday.

On Tuesday, Ledge Light inspectors visited the stores and determined that lot numbers of cartons sold there matched those included in the recall. Store managers immediately took the affected eggs off the shelves and Ledge Light notified the Connecticut Department of Public Health and Department of Consumer Protection.

"A decision was made here that it was better to be safe than sorry," Ledge Light Health Director Stephen Mansfield said. Store managers "agreed wholeheartedly to pull the product from the shelves."

Mansfield contacted The Day and other Connecticut media outlets, posted on Facebook and sent an automated notice to establishments in the health district's jurisdiction.

Mansfield recommended that anyone who recently bought eggs from Walmart stop using them immediately.

Later that night, Mansfield got an email from the Department of Consumer Protection: It was a false alarm. Inspectors had misread the numerical codes on the side of the cartons and their determination that the eggs were part of the recall was wrong.

"They were almost certain that these products were not associated with the recall," Mansfield said.

A Department of Consumer Protection spokesman said Wednesday that the Ledge Light inspectors likely had based their decision on the "universal product code" that matched the recalled products' numbers but did not check whether the plant number matched that on the eggs listed in the recall notice.

"When checking to see if a product is recalled, consumers may need to check for more than one identifying number," said Lora Rae Anderson of the Department of Consumer Protection. "In this case, consumers need to look at both the carton UPC number, and the plant number, which starts with 'P-'. Based on the plant number for these recalled eggs, P-1065, we know that no affected eggs were distributed to Connecticut."

When Ledge Light inspectors returned to the stores, they found the eggs being sold there came from different plants and were not among the eggs being recalled.

It was too late to take back the message, in some ways: NBC Connecticut and WFSB, the CBS affiliate for the Hartford–New Haven market, already had posted stories on their websites warning people that the eggs were being recalled. Ledge Light already had posted a message to its Facebook page declaring the eggs unusable.

By Tuesday night NBC had corrected the story and Ledge Light had deleted the Facebook post.

Molly Blakeman, a Walmart spokeswoman, said Wednesday the eggs had been returned to shelves in the two stores. The company removes any product that is the subject of a recall immediately, she said.

"In this case, we were confident that these products were not affected," she said.

The Food and Drug Administration reported Friday that Indiana company Rose Acre Farms on Friday had voluntarily recalled more than 206 million eggs traced back to the farm. They said the eggs may have been sold in nine states — Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia — and may have been connected to several salmonella outbreaks last month.

The FDA warned that the salmonella infections cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps for up to a week. While most people recover without treatment, it also can cause serious infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.

The affected eggs were marked with the plant number P-1065 and with packing dates between 011 and 102, which according to the commonly used Julian numbering system indicates they were packed between Jan. 11 and April 12. They were sold under several brand names including Coburn Farms, Country Daybreak, Food Lion, Glenview, Great Value, Nelms and Sunshine Farms. Some affected eggs were sold to restaurants, according to the FDA.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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