PUBLIC HEALTH
September 13, 2010

Foul Fowl Conditions in Egg Recall

The FDA says Salmonella was found in chicken feed and mounds of feces on the egg farms in the recent recall.

If you’ve been concerned by the recent recall of over half a billion eggs due to possible Salmonella contamination, you might want to stop reading. The FDA has released new reports that identify a multitude of violations on the Iowa chicken farms involved in the egg recalls, from sky-high piles of feces to rodent burrows.

Samples were confirmed in chicken feed, walkways in hen houses, manure piles and manure scraper blades, and on storage containers.

Salmonella, the bacterium that has contaminated so many eggs and made thousands of people around the country sick, was found in a variety of locations in and around the egg farms. Samples were confirmed in chicken feed, walkways in hen houses, manure piles and manure scraper blades, and on storage containers. Perhaps these findings should not come as a total surprise, but they are still disturbing.

One of the reports detailed the many violations in how chicken feces were contained - or not contained. One wrote that there were four- to eight-foot high piles of feces under the "egg laying operations." In addition, "un-caged birds were using the manure, which was approximately 8 feet high, to access the egg-laying area." One door was blocked with "excessive amounts of manure in the manure pits," and in another hen house, a "dark liquid which appeared to be manure was seeping" from the inside of the house.

Should we even talk about the pests and vermin? "Live and dead flies too numerous to count" were seen around the egg processing equipment, and "live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed on the manure pit floor". There was also ample evidence of rodents, frogs, and pigeons living on the premises or partaking in the chicken feed.

And finally, there were problems in the protocols the employees used in their daily activities. For instance, sometimes workers did not wear the required protective gear or clean equipment appropriately.

Still, the exact source of the Salmonella contamination remains unclear. As officials investigate further, maybe this will become apparent. In the meantime, see the FDA’s website for more information on the egg recall and the brands involved: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/MajorProductRecalls/ucm223522.htm.

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