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FDA's Findings on Salmonella-Linked Egg Farms: Mice, Maggots, Manure

After a salmonella outbreak, Food and Drug Administration inspectors find plentiful problems on two Iowa egg farms. The agency has begun inspections of all of the country's largest egg farms.

As we pointed out last week, the Food and Drug Administration -- the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of 80 percent of the nation's food supply -- rarely inspects farms, and does so "almost exclusively in periods of crisis," according to one report.

The latest crisis -- a salmonella outbreak that caused more than a half-billion eggs to be recalled -- has prompted the FDA to begin inspecting all of the country's largest egg farms before the end of next year, according to The Associated Press. The two Iowa egg companies at the center of the recalls got inspections first. The agency has now posted those inspection reports.

One of the reports, for Wright County Egg [PDF], found "excessive amounts of manure" blocking the entrances to some henhouses -- "approximately 4 feet high to 8 feet high" in several areas. The report documented live mice in the egg-laying houses, and "live and dead flies" and "live and dead maggots too numerous to count."

Another report, for Hillandale Farms [PDF], noted unsealed rodent holes and manure problems. It also reported that the water used to wash eggs tested positive for salmonella.

Wright County Egg told The Wall Street Journal that the company has "worked around the clock" to address the FDA's concerns; Hillandale farms said it was "in the process of responding to the FDA's written report to provide further explanation and clarification of what was observed."

Both companies are linked to Jack DeCoster, whose businesses in several states have had a history of environmental, labor, immigration and animal abuse problems, according to The Des Moines Register.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that more than 1,400 people were sickened in this outbreak.

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