A North Carolina farm that recalled more than 207 million eggs due to a salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 35 people had an “ongoing rodent infestation” dating back to September 2017.
Rose Acre Farms, an Indiana company with a farm in Hyde County, North Carolina, had an “unacceptable rodent activity” in the poultry house where it produced millions of eggs for consumer across the nation. The company announced in April it was recalling eggs over fears the popular breakfast item was contaminated with salmonella.
A report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detailed the unsanitary conditions in the facility, including rodents “burrowing in and out of manure piles.” Dead rodents were also found.
“Approximately five apparent rodents seen while walking rows during swab collection; also, a large spill/pile of what appeared to be feed with large flying insects too numerous to count between house numbers 10 and 11, directly beside canal,” the report stated about observations made on March 27.
A second observation stated there were “unsanitary conditions and poor employee practices” in the egg processing facility that allowed filth and diseases to spread to equipment and the food item.
Employees were seen touching surfaces — including their hair, face, floor, dirty production equipment, trash cans — and handling eggshells and “food contact surfaces” without changing their gloves or washing hands. Equipment that were “sanitized” still had food debris and grime on it.
“Throughout the inspection we observed at least 25 flying insects throughout the egg processing facility. The insects were observed landing on food, food contact surfaces, and food production equipment,” the report stated.
The manager at Hyde County farm failed to address the rat infestation and implement more sanitary practices, the report stated. The investigation occurred between March and April after several people reported contracting the foodborne illness when eating the contaminated eggs.
The farm has 3 million hens and produces 2.3 million eggs a day. The eggs are distributed to supermarkets and restaurants in several states, including Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
At least 11 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak began. Another 16 people who were ill said they ate egg dishes from different restaurants, while 22 people said they ate shelled eggs before contracting salmonella, the CDC reported.