Federal officials have put operators of an Ohio egg farm on notice, citing inadequate precautions against Salmonella Enteritidis that included rodent and fly infestations as well as inadequate employee sanitation practices.

The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Bradley E. Barga, president of Judge Farms Inc., on May 17 and posted it for public viewing in recent days. The letter details multiple “serious violations” of the federal shell egg regulation, formally known as the Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation regulation, Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 118.

Inspectors from the FDA were onsite at Judge Farms from Oct. 15-23, 2018. While there they observed and documented numerous violations including many live rodents throughout the facility, including on the egg conveyor belt in the laying house and in the rows of hens. Inspectors saw a bucket of dead rodents as well as multiple holes where rodents could enter the buildings.

Flies were also a problem and as with the rodents, promised action by the company has gone undocumented, according to the warning letter. The FDA acknowledged the company’s letter of Dec. 18, 2018, but told Barga in the warning letter that the responses were inadequate.

In addition to the pests, FDA inspectors reported incorrect use of a foot bath designed to disinfect the shoes of employees and visitors. Disinfecting shoes and boots is key to preventing the spread of bacteria such as Salmonella.

“During the inspection, you stated that you use (redacted by FDA) of (redacted by FDA) per (redacted by FDA) for your footbath and that you change the solution approximately (redacted by FDA),” according to the warning letter.  

“However, the (redacted by FDA) bottle instructions state to use one-half ounce per gallon of water and allow the solution to come in contact with the boot/shoe for 10 minutes. The instructions also state to change the disinfecting solution when the solution becomes visibly dirty. 

“Investigators observed that employees/visitors were not allowing their boots to stay in contact with the solution for 10 minutes and the solution appeared visibly dirty.”

Judge Farms operators also failed to document whether they buy their young chickens from monitored breeder flocks that meet the National Poultry Improvement Plan’s standards for “US S. Enteritidis Clean” status or equivalent. The farm also does not have a written plan stating that the pullet environment will be tested for Salmonella Enteritidis when pullets are 14 to 16 weeks of age. The company also did not have written details about corrective actions to take if environmental testing results are positive.   

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