August 31, 2010

FDA Finds Safety Violations at Iowa Egg Farms

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors have discovered that a pair of Iowa egg farms, where tainted chicken feed linked to the ongoing salmonella outbreak in the U.S. was discovered, failed to follow their own safety guidelines.

In fact, as Emily Stephenson of Reuters first reported on Monday, "During inspections conducted on August 19-26, officials found rodent holes and leaking manure at several locations run by Hillandale Farms of Iowa, and non-chicken feathers and live mice and flies at houses owned by Wright County Egg, according to reports posted on the FDA website."

Previously, the FDA had discovered bacteria in the chicken feed at both farms, which the federal agency believes is the likely source of the outbreak. Furthermore, a water sample from a Hillandale Farms plant also contained the bacteria. More than half a billion eggs have been recalled and nearly 1,500 salmonella-related illnesses have been recorded thus far, according to Stephenson.

A spokesperson for Hillandale Farms told Reuters that many of the problems identified by the FDA has already been corrected, and that the company had also identified and moved to correct other issues on the egg farms.

After learning of the FDA report, Caroline Smith DeWaal, the Food Safety Director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI), issued a statement calling the findings "stomach churning" and added that it was "troubling" that the discoveries were made "the month following the date that the new egg-safety regulation went into effect."

"Instead of finding companies that were ready to meet those requirements, FDA's inspections document companies with long-standing violations and apparently little intention to comply," she added. "The decrepit conditions in these hen houses reflect the fact that companies know that FDA inspections are so rare--even following the adoption of a new safety regulation--that there is no urgency to fix their buildings and their operations to assure compliance with FDA statutes and regulations."

In comments made earlier this month, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg advised people to keep eggs refrigerated, to wash their hands before and after handling them, and to make sure that they are fully cooked and that no runny yolk remains after cooking. In addition, the FDA's website advises people to immediately discard cracked eggs, and to make sure that they are not exposed to room temperature conditions for more than two hours at any time.


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