Lenexa,Kansas – Congressional hearings on the salmonella outbreak will take place next week in Washington.
The goal- to try and understand what happened to cause the recent recall of almost half a billion eggs, and subsequent illness of hundreds of people. Congress will further look at ways to prevent an outbreak from happening in the future.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee will hear from victims of salmonella, as well as poultry producers.
Also at the hearing will be representatives of companies that produce a poultry vaccine to protect against the salmonella infection.
A Lenexa-based company is one of the largest manufacturers of such a vaccine. The Director of Business Development at Ceva Animal Health says currently only about half the poultry producers vaccinate their birds. He suspects the outbreak will increase that number to as much as 80%.
"I think you'll see that number jump up tremendously by the end of the year because of everything that's happened because of t he recall."
Ceva is banking on that. With a $700 thousand dollar grant from the Kansas Bioscience Authority, CEVA will expand its manufacturing plant in Lenexa to try and broaden its position in the poultry vaccine market. The Kansas legislature created the Kansas Bioscience Authority in 2004 with $581 million dollars in state funds for the development of the bioscience industry.
Dr. Fred Hoerr with the Department of Animal Resources at Auburn University says this recent outbreak may inspire more producers to start vaccinating, even though the publicity around a salmonella outbreak tends to focus on food safety, regardless of its origin.
He says poultry farmers have long been concerned about different salmonella diseases and that the industry has been studying ways to reduce salmonella contamination for years.
"This has been building, really, for decades, especially with regard to eggs. But then when you have a public health issue like this you have to look at it and say perhaps we need to double our efforts."
Lenexa-based Ceva has several competitors in the poultry vaccine market, but Tom Thornton with the KBA says the salmonella outbreak underscores the timeliness of their investment.
"So we didn't do this in the context of the recall, we did this several months before and lo and behold they are a key player in all this.
And Thornton hopes other bioscience companies will tie CEVA's success to it's support from the KBA. He hopes other animal health companies will notice the hospitable climate for business growth and consider locating here. He believes the continued development will grow the animal health and food safety industries into what boosters hope will become the Animal Health Corridor.