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Two Prominent Egg Producers Get Warning Letters From FDA

Among the egg producers the American Egg Board uses to promote the industry is Midwest Poultry Services, located west of Fort Wayne near Mentone, Indiana.

Family owned and operated since 1875, the egg producer houses at least two million laying hens.

But now, Midwest’s Robert L. Krouse, one of AEB’s spokesmen for the “Incredible Edible Egg” and Wen Chang Su, president of SKS Enterprises Inc., have both received warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for violating the now-two-year-old shell egg regulations.

SKS Enterprises is based in Lodi, CA, where it promotes its “California Farm Fresh” eggs.

In both instances, FDA is concerned about violations occurring away from the main offices of the two egg producers. For Midwest, FDA is concerned about the company’s shell egg production facility in Ft. Recovery, OH, which was inspected between July 23 and 25 of last year.

For SKS, FDA’s inspections found problems at the following egg production facilities: Honen Ranch in Lodi, Fosberg & Griffin in Hughson, Castle and Palm View in Manteca and D&C in Hughson.

FDA found all these egg production facilities, located in Ohio and California, to be in “serious violation” of the shell egg regulations, causing it to determine that eggs being produced in the facilities are “adulterated” in that they have been “prepared, packed or held” under “insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health.”

For the Ohio egg production facility, Midwest could not provide documentation of corrective actions taken to address high levels of rodent activity. “In layer house 1 our investigators observed apparent rodent excreta pellets too numerous to count along the inside perimeter floor and walkway,’ FDA Cincinnati District Director Paul J. Teitell wrote in the recently released Dec. 20 warning letter.

In layer house 3, 113 rodents were caught in a five-day period.

The FDA warning letter said Midwest’s response to its inspection report was inadequate because it failed to update the company’s Salmonella Enteriditis Prevention Plan with a new rodent monitoring and documentation system.

Midwest was also warned about its failure to document compliance with refrigeration requirements. Regulations require eggs be refrigerated withiun 36 hours of being laid. FDA said it would verify such corrective actions are taken at its next inspection.

Finally, FDA commented on Midwest’s SE Prevention Plan as it relates to preventing cross contamination by people and equipment moving among the various laying houses.

In California, SKS was warned about its failure to conduct environmental testing in the pullet environment when the pullets are between 14 and 16 weeks of age. It also found inconsistencies in the protocol for handling chicks that test positive for Salmonella Enteritidis before they are moved into laying facilities. FDA said some of the SKS timeframes were inconsistent.

FDA will check on whether adequate changes are in place at its next inspection.

In addition, FDA findings involving the California egg production facilities included:

  • An auto entering without washing or disinfecting the vehicle
  • Stray poultry, wild birds, cats and other animals were not prevented from entering the poultry houses
  • Wild birds and wild bird nests were mentioned as special problems
  • Failure to perform SE testing after inducing a molt in the flock
  • Failure to maintain rodent and pest control records. Many records for rodent and fly monitoring were missing for specific time periods.
  • Environmental sampling was inconsistent as it samples only half the cage rows.

Neither Midwest nor SKS was ordered to stop shipping eggs until the problems mentioned in the warning letters are solved. Both were given 15 working days to respond to the warning letters.  Attempts to reach the two egg producers through the egg board for comment were unsuccessful.

The new egg rule went into effect on July 9, 2010 for egg producers with 50,000 or more laying hens,.  FDA estimates that, if followed, the rule might prevent up to 60 percent of the 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths from eating eggs contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis (SE).  Refrigeration during egg storage and transportation and other protective measures are included in the 2010 requirements.

On an unrelated subject, FDA sent a Dec. 21 warning letter to john M. Ficher, owner of Mountain Vista Dairy at Tilamook, OR when tissue samples of a dairy cow sold for slaughter tested positive for excessive penicillin levels.

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