By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Privett Hatchery is decontaminating all eggs before entry to its hatchery and is taking other steps to ensure consumer safety, according to the state’s health department, after the Portales facility was tied to a national salmonella outbreak last week.
The hatchery, which supplies baby chicks, ducklings and other live baby poultry to feed stores and mail order customers nationwide, remains open with no restrictions placed on it after a strain of salmonella that has infected more than 300 people in 37 states was found in a duck pen at the hatchery.
Hatchery officials declined to comment Wednesday but have issued a statement on the hatchery’s website along with information regarding the safe handling of poultry.
According to a Center for Disease Control official, the official salmonella case count remains at 316 as reported last week, but officials said more possible cases have been reported and they are working to confirm them.
The hatchery, however, is taking steps to slow down and stop the outbreak including removing from sale the poultry from the pen where the positive environmental sample was taken among other measures, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.
“The New Mexico Department of Health continues to monitor the situation. There are no additional cases in New Mexico,” said NMDOH Public Information Officer David Morgan. “The owner of the hatchery has taken multiple voluntary steps to clean coups to reduce further risks of salmonella.”
Tara Anderson with the CDC said the hatchery is working with a state veterinarian, who is acting as a consultant to address issues on the farm.
“The outbreak strain was identified at this hatchery because of the complicated nature, at this time it’s only been found from this particular hatchery,” Anderson said.
She added no recall will be done and the hatchery’s largest task is to readjust its procedures and work with its consultant to address the issues.
“It’s normal to find salmonella in poultry,” Anderson said. “We focus on education so people understand the risks and simple steps to care for the poultry.”
This is the second national salmonella outbreak that originated from a Portales business within a year. Sunland Inc., the nation’s largest organic peanut butter processor, had its products linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in 20 states last fall.
Sunland’s peanut butter plant was closed for more than six months before production restarted in late May.
Anderson said because the peanut butter was a product that is directly consumed by the consumers, a salmonella outbreak would be addressed with different regulatory procedures.
“With animals, it’s expected,” Anderson said.
She added that for food products, a recall has to be done to ensure safety, while with the hatchery’s situation, the hatchery, stores and customers have to be educated on health safety.