By KRISTINE PHILLIPS | The Washington Post
A North Carolina egg farm that authorities say is responsible for a salmonella outbreak that has sickened several people in nine states has had a heavy rodent infestation and failed to take actions to reverse it, according to an inspection report.
Dozens of rodents, some alive and some dead, were found inside Rose Acre Farms’ hen houses in its North Carolina facility. Many, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration report says, were burrowing in manure piles. Countless insects also hovered around chicken feeds and throughout the farm. Employees were seen touching body parts and dirty surfaces while handling food.
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Perhaps more disturbing, the report says, is that “unacceptable rodent activity” had been going on at the facility for months — before the first of the salmonella-related illnesses occurred — but the facility’s management did not take appropriate actions and unsanitary practices continued. Thirty-five people who consumed eggs traced back to Rose Acre Farms’ facility in Hyde County, North Carolina, have been sick since last November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The inspection described in the report was conducted from late March to mid-April, in response to the outbreak of illness.
Last month, Rose Acre Farms, one of the biggest egg producers in the country, recalled nearly 207 million eggs because of fears they have been contaminated with salmonella. In a statement, the family-owned company apologized to those who “may have been sickened” and said it has taken “numerous remedial actions” and other steps “to ensure the farm meets or exceeds” federal standards.
“Rose Acre Farms takes food safety and the welfare of our hens, workers and consumers very seriously. We responsibly follow the requirements of the FDA’s Egg Safety Rule, the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Food and Drug and Cosmetic Act because we care about providing safe, nutritious and affordable eggs,” the Seymour, Indiana-based company said. “When we fall short of expectations, we’re disappointed in ourselves and we strive to correct any problems and institute safeguards that ensure those problems won’t occur again. We vow to do better in the future.”
The report says that rodent infestation had been a problem at the company’s Hyde County farm since at least last September. By late March and early April — after several had already been sick — an inspector visited the facility multiple times and found dozens of rodents running around rows of poultry houses. A few carcasses were found lying in and outside the houses.
Sanitation procedures were also neither implemented nor followed, the report says. Employees were seen touching their faces, hair, buttocks and dirty surfaces — and then handling food without changing gloves or washing their hands. Production equipment were covered in dirt and food debris and were unclean for multiple days during the inspection. One employee was seen cleaning equipment with a steel wool scrubber that had …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World