Mice, Maggots & Manure Tied to Egg Recalls

August 30, 2010 - 5:09 PM | by: Mike Tobin

As U.S. regulators outline the details of what was found at the two massive egg farms at the heart of the salmonella recall, their assessment that the farms failed to “fully implement” measures to prevent contamination seems like an understatement.

At the Wright County Egg farm, which produces eggs, and the Quality egg operation, which produces feed and pullets (young hens), investigators noted:
- Manure pits 4 to 8 feet high, the weight of which had pushed open doors allowing wild animals like rodents in to the egg-laying area.
- Live and dead flies “too numerous to count” in the egg-laying houses.
- Live and dead maggots “too numerous to count” in the manure pits.
- A door blocked by “excessive manure.”
- Employees failing to change protective clothing when moving from chicken house to chicken house.
- Non-chicken feathers in the hen houses. Wild birds flying and nesting in the chicken houses.
- Unbaited and unsealed holes appearing to be rodent burrows.
- Exterior structure damage, allowing animals’ access to the hen houses.
- Chickens that had escaped their cages, climbing up the manure piles to re-enter the hen houses and have contact with the egg-laying birds.
- A dark liquid, which appeared to be manure, seeping through the concrete foundation to the outside of the hen houses.
- A board on the ground, under which eight frogs were living.

At the Hillandale operations, investigators noted:
- Unsealed rodent holes
- Live rodents
- Gaps in the structure allowing live rodents and others to enter and exit the hen houses.
- Liquid manure streaming out of manure pits and in some cases onto the main floor.
- Standing water adjacent to the manure pits.

Darrell Trample, a poultry specialist at the Iowa State University, told us last week that rodents and the bacteria they spread likely would be at the center of any salmonella outbreak.

U.S. regulators would only say that they will consider the set of circumstances at the massive egg production operations and determine what action will be taken next.