Inspector observations shared with the complex manager at Hyde County Egg, owned by Rose Acre Farms, shortly before the announcement of the multistate outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup don’t paint a pretty picture.

FDA’s Form 483, observations for the March 26 to April 11, 2018 inspection of Hyde County Egg at 1560 Hyde Park Canal Road in Pantego, NC, documents problems at the production facility for three million hens producing 2.3 million eggs per day.

Rose Acre Farms, headquartered in Seymour, IN, announced a recall on April 13, 2018, of nearly 207 million shell eggs from the Hyde County Egg. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went public with the Salmonella Braenderup outbreak on April 16.

CDC’s only update came three days later on April 19, with 23 confirmed cases in nine states. Hospital care for six was required. None died.

FDA’s inspection before the recall and outbreak shows problems continued to exist the Hyde County Egg even after cleaning procedures were carried out.

Rodent activity and pests were a problem dating back to at least September 2017, according to records examined by FDA inspectors. In poultry houses 9 and 13, FDA found rodents in the manure pits. In one area spray foam created a “potential pest entrance” to the manure pits by going around a closed up door.

FDA personnel observed both live and dead rodents in these areas.

Poultry houses 2, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 were also sites for robust rodent activities, including on the hen house floors.

“There were unsanitary conditions and poor employee practices observed in the egg processing facility that create an environment that allows for the harborage, proliferation, and speed of filth and pathogens throughout the facility that could cause the combination of egg processing equipment and eggs,” says the Form 483 report.

FDA found that cleaning procedures “were not being implemented by management and followed by sanitation employees,” it said. Instead, the sanitation workers were skipping steps and not waiting for detergent to soak as required.

“Throughout the inspection we observed condensation dripping from the ceiling, pipes, and down walls, onto production equipment (i.e., crack detector, egg grader) and pooling on the floors in foot traffic and forklift pathway,” the Form 483 report adds.

FDA inspection personnel also found Hyde County Egg’s conveyor belts, chains, rail guards, buffers, egg transport arms, egg clappers, production computers and production equipment surfaces were covered with ‘accumulated food debris including dried eggs and shell.

“The same areas of accumulated food debris were observed uncleaned on multiple days during the inspection pre- and post sanitation,” the reports says.

A steel wool scrubber was removed by an employee from a dustpan of water and egg mix and used to scrub debris off the egg buffers.

Finally, numerous flying insects were inside the egg processing facility.

USDA inspectors are on duty to grade eggs produced by Hyde County, but generally, they do not stray far from the grading booth as they examine the day’s production. Egg inspectors are the end of the production line, and not responsible for what goes on in the far-flung hen houses.

Rose Acre’s recall is the largest since 2010 when 550 million eggs were called back from two Iowa egg production facilities owned by one-time egg baron Austin “Jack” Decoster.

“Jack” and Peter DeCoster and Quality Egg LLC paid a total of $7 million in fines, and the father and son each served three months jail for allowing their bad eggs to reach the market. Almost 2,000 people were sickened by the recalled DeCoster eggs.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)