The North Carolina egg farm authorities believe is the source of a recent salmonella outbreak — which has so far sickened people across nine states — has had an “ongoing rodent infestation” since at least September 2017.
That dates back months before Rose Acre Farms, one of the biggest egg producers in the country, recalled nearly 207 million eggs they feared could have been contaminated with Salmonella.
Insects buzzed about the chicken feed and throughout the company’s North Carolina facility, which also housed dozens of rats. Inspectors discovered the bodies of dead rodents while other rats were spotted “burrowing in and out of manure piles,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Report.
The “unacceptable rodent” activity had been going on months before the first signs of the salmonella outbreak surfaced.
What’s more, the manager at the Hyde County farm failed to take appropriate action against the rat infestation as well as against other unsanitary practices, according to the report.
“Additionally, throughout the inspection several production and maintenance employees were observed touching non-food contact surfaces,” including their faces, hair, production equipment and trash cans, “and then touch shell eggs and food contact surfaces without changing gloves or washing hands,” according to the report.
Production equipment was also left unclean and covered in food debris for days. Inspectors additionally saw condensation dripping from ceilings, pipes and walls and onto production equipment.
This combination of “unsanitary conditions and poor employee practices” cultivated an environment which allowed for the “spread of filth and pathogens throughout the facility that could cause the contamination of egg processing equipment and eggs,” according to the report.
The inspection detailed in the report was commissioned in response to the outbreak, with the probe itself occurring between March and mid-April.
So far, 35 people who consumed eggs traced back to Rose Acre Farms’ North Carolina facility have been sick since last November, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Hyde County farm houses 3 million hens and produces 2.3 million eggs a day, all distributed to stores and restaurants in states including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas.
Illnesses have been reported in each of those states, according to the CDC, primarily in New York and Virginia.
So far 11 have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
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