Dirty egg-sucking dog: illegal eggs flood Toronto

Tens of thousands of illegal eggs — some covered in fecal matter and feathers — have emerged in a crackdown on Toronto-area food retailers and wholesalers, prompting public health concerns and pending charges against nine companies so far.

Rob Cribb of the Toronto Star revisits the food beat to report that at least six food establishments have charges pending:

• Sharable Bakery, 240 Alton Towers Circle.
• Greystone Bakery, 6 Greystone Walk Dr.
• Farm Fresh Supermarket, 4466 Sheppard Ave. E.
• Casa Imperial Fine Chinese Cuisine, 4125 Steeles Ave E.
• ABC Bakery, 3618 Victoria Park Ave.
• Besmeats Wholesale Ltd., a food distributor at 110 Bynamic Dr.

“The person who gave me eggs did not write ‘ungraded eggs’ on the box. We are innocent,” said Besmeats manager Jesslyn Tio.

“It’s not easy to get egg dealers in town. Those people just knocked on my door. I don’t know them. I don’t want ungraded eggs to be on the market. I eat the eggs too.”

Tio said she can now see a clear difference between inspected eggs and what she’s been supplying her clients, mainly bakeries.

Inspectors believe at least some of the eggs came from a distribution warehouse in Scarborough under investigation.

The unnamed facility was filled with more than 100,000 ungraded eggs when inspectors visited last Friday, said Toronto Public Health food safety manager Jim Chan. They were seized and destroyed, he said.

“Some of the eggs still have fecal matter on the egg shells, quite a bit of dirt and even feathers inside the boxes which are all indications of ungraded eggs,” said Chan.

“We brought CFIA (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) in and they confirmed they were ungraded eggs.”

All eggs sold beyond farm gates in Ontario must be graded at federally licensed facilities. The process is designed to ensure eggs are properly washed and free of hairline cracks — often invisible to the eye — that open up the potential for salmonella and other pathogens to enter.

Rodger Dunlop, manager of regulatory compliance with the provincial agriculture ministry, would offer no comment on the investigation, saying only that it is ongoing.

Way to be forthcoming, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

B.C. health officials have traced an outbreak of about 650 salmonella cases over the past three years — a 300 per cent increase since 2007 — to egg consumption including ungraded eggs.

Statistics Canada figures show about 380,000 dozen eggs produced in Ontario each month are “leakers and rejects.” But the agency does not track how many eggs unfit for human consumption end up in the underground marketplace.

Those facing charges this week would say little about their eggs.