Just how filthy were the Iowa farms at the center of this month's recall of over half a billion eggs? According to the FDA's farm inspectors, very filthy indeed. Six farms operated by Wright County Egg and Quality Egg, and three run by Hillandale Farms were inspected this month after a salmonella outbreak that has left 1,470 people sick. FDA investigators found evidence of poor health standards that the Center for Science in the Public Interest called "stomach-churning." The owners of these farms produce over 2.3 million dozen eggs every week from Iowa farms, notes Marion Nestle at The Atlantic. "The take home lessons seem obvious": This has gotten out of hand, and the government needs to act. On the basis of these findings, the FDA says it will now inspect all egg-laying operations with more than 50,000 hens. (Watch a local report about the economic toll of the egg recall.) Here's what inspectors found at the Iowa sites:
8 ft. piles of chicken manure
Inspectors at Wright County Egg discovered chicken manure "piled between 4 feet and 8 feet high in a pit" below the laying houses.
Flies and maggots "too numerous to count"
Again, at Wright County Egg the inspectors discovered live and dead flies "too numerous to count." One FDA official reported that inspectors actually crushed live flies beneath their feet. Maggots were also discovered in the manure pit.
Manure inside the laying houses
Inspectors at a Hillandale farm found a dark liquid seeping into the chicken house that was later identified as manure. Uncaged chickens also tracked manure from outside the henhouse into the cages.
Mice playing alongside the egg-laying hens
At both Hillandale and Wright County Egg, rodents had been able to access poultry houses. Inspectors described seeing live mice dart about the floor of one of the laying barns.
Sources: USA Today, Business Week, CNN, Wall Street Journal