The Iowa farms behind a recall of over half a billion eggs did not have adequate food safety standards in place, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told CNN yesterday.

“There’s no question these farms involved in the recall were not operating with the standards of practice that we consider responsible,” said Hamburg in the interview.  “It’s very, very important that those standards be cleaned up.”

chicken-coops-featured.jpgHillandale Farms announced Friday it was recalling more than 170 million eggs, adding to the 380 million recalled by another egg producer–Wright County Egg–after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration linked the farm’s eggs to an outbreak of Salmonella that has sickened as many as 1,300 people nationwide.

Hillandale Farms said it shared “a number of common suppliers” with Wright County Egg, including a company called Quality Egg, which provided feed and young birds. Both Wright County Egg and Quality Egg are owned by Jack DeCoster, a prevalent figure in the egg industry with a long history of food safety, animal cruelty, and worker safety violations.

In a statement released late yesterday, Wright County Egg said it was cooperating with FDA.

“When issues have been raised about our farms, our management team has addressed them swiftly and effectively, working with recognized outside experts to identify and establish corrective measures for our operations,” it said. “We are approaching our work with FDA in the same forthright manner.”

“We are devastated that our eggs have been implicated in making people sick,” Hillandale Farms said in a statement yesterday. “We have never had a product recall in our 45-year history, and it flies in the face of our mission to provide wholesome, nutritious food for the American public. We regret that anyone might have become ill, and the concern and disruption this has caused our customers.”

In her interview with CNN, Hamburg said the incident was an example of how the federal food safety system should be strengthened.

“It is really important that as a nation we continue to invest in food safety and strengthen our food safety program, that has been a priority for the Obama administration from the very beginning and for me since I took on this role,” Hamburg told CNN. “We are working closely with Congress to try to get new food safety legislation in place that will give FDA new authorities and resources so that we can do our job better.”

“It is important to do inspections, it’s also important to make sure that preventive measures are in place. That companies that produce and distribute food are following the best science-based practices to enhance food safety and reduce risks,” added Hamburg, who explained that FDA’s newly-implemented egg safety rules set specific standards aimed at preventing contamination.

“Unfortunately, these [regulations] just went into place a little bit after the cases started to appear from this particular outbreak, but they will make a difference going forward and that’s really important,” Hamburg told  “It’s a reminder about the importance of having serious oversight of food safety risks. These new regulations that have gone into place puts specific standards on the industry in terms of how they produce, handle, and disseminate eggs for consumers.”

The entire CNN interview with Hamburg is available here.