Shell egg farms in Alabama and New York inspected last year by the Food and Drug Administration were recently warned about the serious violations FDA discovered.

In the warning letters, FDA discloses more details about a previously reported outbreak and reports  that the  Salmonella Enteritidis or SE outbreak caused a cage-free egg producer to cease operations.

Alabama’s Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman was the likely source of a multi-state SE outbreak that last year sickened 44 people in 11 states, FDA says in the recently released warning letter dated Feb. 12, 2019.

As consequence, Gravel Ridge recalled 660,000 shell eggs between May 22 and Aug. 29, 2018. It was one of two large shell egg recalls that occurred last year.   The other involved a Salmonella Braenderup outbreak.

FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated the outbreak. A match to the outbreak strain was turned up from an environmental swab in laying house 2 at Gravel Ridge Farms.

The warning letter says FDA’s “Whole Genome Sequence (WGS) analysis of these isolates of SE revealed that they are genetically identical to 45 clinical isolates from ill patients sequenced to date.”

“Moreover, as you are aware, CDC and FDA have dtermined, based on the epidemiological, traceback, and laboratory evidence, that shell eggs produced at your Cullman, Alabama location are the likely source of this multi-state SE outbreak,” it continued.

The other warning letter, also dated Feb. 12, 2019, went to New York’s Walnut Ridge Farm 1 in Ovid. Walnut Ridge was inspected last Aug. 1 and 2; and the inspection of Gravel Ridge first occurring from Sept. 5-7, 2018
with followup visits on Sept. 12, 20, and 25.

The FDA warning letters, to Walnut Ridge owner Samuel T, Peachey and Gravel Ridge’s co-owners Dustin P. Smith and Daniel B. Wright, say thetwo egg farms are operating in violation of FDA’s egg safety rule.

Shell egg producers with 50,000 or more laying hens are required to adhere to the Egg Safety Rule. FDA adopted the Egg Rule to prevent Salmonella Enteriditis (SE) from contaminating eggs on the farm and during storage and transportation. It’s been in effect since July 2010.

Here’s the rundown from the two warning letters on the major violations by farm:

Gravel Ridge Farm (Linked to outbreak)

  • Did not implement a written Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) Prevention Plan
  • A draft SE plan submitted during the inspection failed to include a requirement that procured pullets are SE monitored or raised under SE monitored conditions.
  • Nor did the draft plan promise to purchase chicks only form SE monitored breeder flocks.
  • And the draft plan does not provide for testing the pullet environment for SE at 14-to16 weeks of age.
  • No protection against cross-contamination from visitors to the farm or poultry houses or preventive measure to defend against wild birds, cats, other animals.
  • No biosecurity measures.
  • Rodents, flies and other pests are not controlled.
  • Failure to conduct environmental tests for each poultry house.

Walnut Ridge Farm 1

  • Failed to implement a written, farm-specific SE prevention plan.
  •  Documentation was not provided for testing  the pullet environment at 14-to16 weeks
  • No records of SE prevention measures
  • Rodent monitoring was being conducted only outside the poultry houses, not inside as also required.

The future of Gravel Ridge Farm remains unclear.  “We are aware you have currently recalled all eggs, depopulated all flocks, and have ceased egg production,” the warning letter says.   “Your response states you are unlikely to become operational “.

The Hyde County unit of the national egg producer Rise Acre Farms was the likely source of last year’s Salmonella Braenderup outbreak.   The Seymour, IN-based Rose Acre recalled almost 207 million shell eggs for possible contamination with the Salmonella bacteria.    In the same outbreak, Cal-Maine Foods recalled 280,800 eggs it purchased from Rose Acre Farms.

The Salmonella Braenderup outbreak.sickened 45 people in ten states, and was declared over on last July 26 by CDC.

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