Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Do Mice, Maggots, Manure & Eggs Have in Common ?

Officials are sharing details of their discovery at the two egg farms in the middle of the salmonella recall.

They say the farms failed to “fully implement” measures to prevent contamination, but that doesn't even begin to explain the problem.

At the Wright County Egg farm, which produces eggs, officials 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, said last week that rodents and the bacteria they spread likely would be at the cause of any salmonella outbreak.

(FDA) inspectors have once again found infected chicken feed. This contaminated feed is now being linked to the ongoing 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.

Candidate Brenna Findley, Republican candidate for Iowa attorney general criticized the Democratic incumbent on Monday for accepting a $10,000 campaign contribution in 2005 from the family at the heart of a national egg recall.

After the criticism, Attorney General Tom Miller agreed to return the money.

Peter DeCoster, the son of Wright County Egg owner Austin "Jack" DeCoster, made the $10,000 donation to Miller on Dec. 28, 2005. The donation came after a 2000 agreement between the state and Jack DeCoster, in which he agreed to be labeled a "habitual offender," a designation intended to prevent him from opening any new farms for about four years. He earlier had been repeatedly fined for environmental violations, many of them involving hog waste.

Wright County Egg now is at the center of a recall of more than 550 million eggs that could contain salmonella. Some of the eggs were produced by another company, Hillandale Farms, that received feed from one of DeCoster's businesses.

"It is shocking that Miller would accept $10,000 from the DeCosters," Findley said. "Iowans deserve an open and transparent political process, free of backscratching and special deals."

A call to DeCoster wasn't returned.

Miller said he would return the money, but he defended his record of enforcing environmental laws against the DeCoster operations.

"In this state, no one was stronger on DeCoster than our office," Miller said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We were the ones on the front lines prosecuting him."

Miller said his office effectively prosecuted DeCoster, making him the first and only person to be deemed a "habitual violator" in Iowa.

"We had a huge battle with Jack DeCoster in the '90s over the pollution issue at the hog lots," Miller said. "We got enough violations prosecuted that he saw it would be inevitable that we would get habitual violators status, so he agreed to that."

After that action in 2000, Miller said DeCoster complied with environmental rules and he saw no reason why he shouldn't accept the contribution. He conceded, though, that the egg recall changed everything.

"Had I known that they would have these problems five years later, I would not have accepted that contribution," he said. "I'm going to return the contribution."