Egg recall update: FDA details filth found at hen houses

Egg recall update: FDA details filth found at hen housesU.S. Food and Drug Administration officials today unveiled the final list of the contamination problems they found at the two egg producers at the heart of a 500-million plus egg recall, and the listing painted a pretty scary picture of the nation's food supply.

They found:
  • Holes that allowed birds to and cats to enter
  • Frogs
  • Hens walking through leaking manure
  • Flies and maggots
  • Live mice and burrow holes for rodents

Unveiling details of the inspection of Quality Egg (Wright County Farm) and Hillandale Farms, the first of the farms under a new FDA egg rule that took effect in July, the FDA reported problem after problem.

"We have no reason to believe this is indicative of practices throughout the industry," Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for food, told reporters.

At Wright County Farm, the report charted problems at five laying facilities and a feed mill. FDA inspectors reported eight frogs in one area, non-chicken feathers in another, two birds' nests and actual birds seen under the siding of one wall and the weight of manure so heavy that it had opened a gap in a hen house to wildlife or domesticated animals.

The FDA also found live mice and unbaited rodent holes, leaking liquid manure; and uncaged chickens, having escaped from normal facilities, in contact with the manure and 8 feet away from the egg laying area.

In addition to those problems, the FDA report said that a number of normal procedures to lessen the chance of contamination -- like washing and disinfection of a hen truck and trailers -- weren't carried out.

The company "failed to prevent stray poultry, wild birds, cats and other animals from entering the poultry houses," said David Elder, FDA director of the Office of Regional Operations. He said it was an example of the firm failing to follow its procedures to limit salmonella contamination.

Hillandale was only a little better. The FDA report said at the hen houses it inspected it saw gaps that could easily allow other animals to enter barns, liquid manure leaking, hens walking through manure and tracking it to the area of caged hens in two hen houses, and rodent holes.

It also found that the company had failed to comply with requirements that individual employees sign off on regular inspections.

Taylor said that when officials of each company was presented with the inspection, they agreed to fix the problems before resuming shipments. Officials of the companies did not return requests for comment.

"The firms have informed FDA they will not ship shell eggs to consumers until the FDA is confidant the eggs are safe and ready for consumption," he said.

While the FDA had implemented a new egg safety rule that for the first time required regular inspections of egg-laying houses, the rule was implemented July 1, too late for the this recall.

Taylor said the FDA intends to inspect all 600 facilities that produce eggs in the next 15 months, with the producers being prioritized "based on an assessment of the risk posed."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 1,470 cases of salmonella linked to the contaminated eggs, but that only accounts for those cases formally documented and transmitted to the CDC.
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