Rodents, Contamination Found At 2 Egg Farms
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The Food and Drug Administration released the details yesterday of what it found in the henhouses suspected of being the source of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella. Perhaps not surprisingly, conditions at the two large egg producers in Iowa were found to be unsanitary. NPR's Dan Charles has more.
DAN CHARLES: FDA official David Elder says when investigators arrived at Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa they found clear violations of the agency's new egg rule, which sets sanitation standards for egg producers.
Mr. DAVID ELDER (Food and Drug Administration): Outside access doors to manure pits were pushed out by the weight of manure, which was piled in some cases four to eight feet high.
CHARLES: With the doors pushed out, wild animals could get in.�Animals like mice, which carry salmonella.�Studies show the more mice are in a chicken house, the more likely those chickens are to become infected with salmonella and pass that along to their eggs.��
Inspectors saw rodent holes in the sides of chicken houses, and more.
Mr. ELDER: Our investigators observed bird nests and birds in one poultry house, live rodents in at least one poultry house at several plants, and live and dead flies that were too numerous to count in many poultry houses at certain plants.
CHARLES: Officials say eggs from these farms infected more than a thousand people with salmonella during the past four months.� The companies have now recalled half a billion eggs and they aren't selling any whole shell eggs at the moment.�
FDA officials didn't say what penalties they might try to impose on the two egg producers.� The companies for their part say the problems FDA inspectors observed are being corrected.
In fact, Andre Ziegler, a poultry veterinarian at the University of Minnesota, says it's not really clear from the documents the FDA released yesterday how significant the violations were.
Dr. ANDRE ZIEGLER (University of Minnesota): I didn't see anything in those reports that was particularly eye-catching, with the exception of possibly having wild birds in the house.
CHARLES: That's because wild birds can carry diseases that can spread in a chicken flock.
But the piles of chicken manure?�By themselves, they aren't dangerous.�And honestly, Ziegler says, if you visit almost any chicken operation and look hard enough, you will find some evidence of mice.��
Dr. ZIEGLER: Getting to zero rodents is probably not going to be possible.
CHARLES: So FDA officials, as they enforce the new egg rule, will have to figure out how many is too many. The agency has not inspected chicken farms before but it's now gearing up to inspect 600 of the largest egg producers in the country over the next fifteen months.
Dan Charles, NPR News, Washington.
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