With a half billion eggs being recalled nationally, state officials and local supermarkets chains are urging consumers to purchase Pennsylvania-produced eggs because they meet high safety standards.
Consumers should seek egg cartons labeled with a PEQAP (Pennsylvania Egg Quality Assurance Program) or PA Preferred logo, which is a gold check mark in a blue keystone, Pennsylvania Agriculture Department spokeswoman Nicole Bucher said.
"To date, there have not been any instances in Pennsylvania of salmonella-infected eggs," Bucher said. "So at the moment, we're clear."
Pennsylvania eggs meet higher safety standards
The state's urging comes after the recall caused by two Iowa egg facilities because of a salmonella outbreak.
Altoona-area residents shouldn't hesitate to purchase eggs because their stores' eggs were either produced in Pennsylvania or have not been supplied by the Iowa egg producer, local grocers said. Pennsylvania has been able to avoid salmonella outbreaks because egg producers follow strict guidelines under PEQAP, Bucher said.
Certified producers implement management and monitoring practices designed to reduce the risk of salmonella contamination of eggs, Bucher said.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Derrick and Dessie Carpenter of Dn’D Farms, New Paris, hold one of the farm’s cage-free chickens Wednesday.
The voluntary program was created 15 years ago in Pennsylvania and shaped the nation's guidelines on the egg industry, she said. In July, the federal Food and Drug Administration published a new egg rule based on Pennsylvania's program.
Egg producers must follow preventive measures during the production, storage and transportation of the nation's egg supply. Bucher said that is mandatory for producers in states that use more than 50,000 hens to produce eggs.
Dn'D Farms of New Paris, Bedford County, is the only local farm in the state program. Derrick and Dessie Carpenter, owners of Dn'D Farms, said all products produced by their farm are registered under the PA Preferred programs.
A handful of very large farms are shipping out a lot of products to a wide area, Derrick Carpenter said.
"It's unfortunate that more farms can't participate in a PA Preferred-type program," he said. "When your product becomes more commercial, the eggs are traveling longer distances, and that's why others cannot receive that recognition."
Carpenter said purchasing from local farmers helps the local economy and cuts traveling costs and risks that could put the product in danger of being contaminated.
Weis Markets works with suppliers who are committed to egg safety, spokesman Dennis Curtin said. Weis receives eggs processed and packed by Sauder's Eggs in Lancaster.
"We don't do business with [the affected farms] and never have done business with them," Curtin said. "The PEQAP program goes through a rigorous inspection process, which greatly reduces the impact of salmonella."
Curtin added that Weis purchases eggs in the states the stores operate, so consumers shouldn't worry about purchasing eggs from any Weis locations.
Martin's Food Markets also do not purchase or carry any of the Iowa-based egg brands, company spokesman Chris Brand said.
"We do not use that supplier of eggs so customers can shop with confidence at Martin's," Brand said.
Though Pennsylvania-produced eggs haven't been recalled, consumers should still use proper cooking methods to prevent salmonella, Cindy McGarrigle, American Egg Board spokeswoman, said.
"While potentially affected eggs have been identified and removed from store shelves, America's egg farmers are urging people to thoroughly cook their eggs as salmonella is destroyed by the heat of cooking," McGarrigle said.
Eggs should be stored in the main section of the refrigerator at between 33 and 40 degrees, McGarrigle said. Eggs accidentally left at room temperature should be discarded after two hours, or one hour in warm weather, she said.
The FDA has always recommended that consumers should not eat raw eggs, Bucher said.
"People should not prepare their eggs sunny side up or eat raw cookie dough," Bucher said. "Follow guidelines that have been around for years."