Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
FDA inspections outline unsanitary conditions at Iowa egg farms
Federal officials have released the results of inspections at both Iowa egg farms associated with more than 1,300 illnesses linked to Salmonella-tainted eggs, and the news isn’t pretty.
Inspectors with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration documented rodents, maggots and seeping manure linked to the long-beleaguered DeCoster family agribusinesses. Both Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms have voluntarily recalled more than half a billion eggs in the wake of a Salmonella outbreak.
FDA officials released their initial observations of the ongoing investigations on Monday. The two farms recalled more than half a billion eggs after salmonella illnesses were linked to their products earlier this month.
The reports show numerous violations at both farms, including rodent, bug and wild bird infestation, uncontained manure, holes in walls and other problems that could have caused the outbreak. In addition, several positive samples of salmonella have been found within both companies, as well as in a feed mill owned by Jack DeCoster that is believed to have been used by both producers.
At sites identified as being owned by Quality Egg LLC, which is run by DeCoster, the FDA found:
- Wild birds and their feathers in the laying houses.
- Chicken manure piled up to 8-feet high
- Outside manure pit doors being pushed open by the weight of the manure
- Unbaited and unsealed holes that appeared to be rodent burrows
- Dark liquid that appeared to be manure seeping through a concrete foundation
- Uncaged chickens climbing on the piles of manures to have contact with caged chickens
- Live mice within the laying houses
- Live and dead flies “too numerous to count”
- Live and dead maggots “too numerous to count”
At Hillandale Farms sites the FDA inspectors found:
- Unsealed rodent holes
- Liquid manure leaking onto a separate floor of a laying house, and “streaming” out of a six-inch gap of a manure pit doorway
- Uncaged hens tracking manure to caged hens
- Numerous incomplete internal monitoring forms
“While it is really helpful that FDA is disclosing the results of their recent inspections of two facilities linked to a major illness outbreak from contaminated eggs, FDA’s findings are truly stomach churning,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
“Equally troubling is that the inspections occurred the month following the date that the new egg-safety regulation went into effect. Both companies involved had been on notice that they needed to meet requirements of the new egg-safety rule for over a year. 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. 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.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, a statement from Wright County Egg said the company has “worked around the clock to address concerns that were raised verbally during FDA’s inspection, with many of those being fixed as soon as they were identified” and would do the same with the written report. The “vast majority” of the issues identified in the report have already been addressed, the company said, and the rest are expected to be corrected by mid-September.
Both Austin “Jack” DeCoster, owner of Wright County Egg, and Orland Bethel, owner of Hillandale Farms, have been asked to appear before U.S. House subcommittee.