Federal inspectors saw rodents, “butt-scratching” workers and filthy conditions at the North Carolina egg farm tied to a salmonella outbreak, a federal inspection report shows.
The outbreak led to one of the largest egg recalls in recent years, more than 206 million eggs sold under nine brands in nine states, the Miami Herald reported. At least 22 people were sickened, including six who were hospitalized, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Investigators traced the tainted eggs to a Hyde County farm run by Indiana-based Rose Acre Farms.
The eggs went to stores and restaurants in the Carolinas, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and West Virginia, according to the Herald.
The eggs were sold loose to Waffle House and other restaurants, the Herald reported. In grocery stores, they were sold under brands Country Daybreak; Crystal Farms; Coburn Farms; Sunshine Farms; Glenview; Great Value (Walmart's store brand); and Food Lion's store brand.
During inspections from March 26 to April 11, inspectors saw rodents in a chicken house and workers touching their hair, faces and "intergluteal cleft" (butt crack), according to a Food and Drug Administration report released on Thursday.
Inspectors found “accumulated food debris” on production equipment and condensation dripping from the ceiling and pipes down walls and onto equipment, according to the report.
A worker was seen using a steel wool scrubber to remove debris from egg buffers in service The scrubber was stored on a cart in a dustpan that had a pool of water and egg mix “with floating food debris and grime,” the report said.
On one visit, inspectors saw at least 25 flying insects throughout the egg processing plant. The insects landed on food, food contact surfaces and food production equipment, according to the FDA report.
On March 27, inspectors saw at least 23 rodents in five buildings on the farm, including 10 adult and baby mice in a pit area.
Unsanitary conditions and “poor employee practices” in the farm’s egg processing plant created an environment “that allows for the harborage, proliferation and spread of filth and pathogens that could cause the contamination of egg processing and eggs,” according to the report.
Rose Acre Farms said it is preparing a formal response to the inspection report that is due on Thursday April 26, CNN reported. “Until then, we would urge everyone to wait until all the facts are presented before rushing to judgment,” spokesman Gene Grabowski told the network.
“It's unfair to be judged on the farm's operation without proper perspective or a chance to formally respond to an incomplete representation of a massive facility that houses more than 3 million hens," Grabowski told CNN.