The FDA's reports show several different possible sources of contamination at both farms including infestations of bugs, rodents and wild birds. Also, uncontained manure and holes in walls could have caused the outbreak. Multiple positive samples of salmonella have been found at both locations.
Although officials said they still cannot speculate on the cause of the salmonella outbreak, they did confirm that both farms violated their own standards as well as new egg rules put in place this summer.
Among the observations of the investigators:
- Live rodents and mice at both farms;
- Structural damage and holes in many locations at both farms, allowing wildlife access;
- Escaped chickens tracking manure through the houses;
- Employees not changing clothing properly when moving from one location to another and not sanitizing equipment properly;
- "Live flies too numerous to count" on egg belts, in the feed, on the eggs themselves at Wright County Egg;
- Dead and live maggots "too numerous to count" on the manure pit floor in one location at Wright County Egg;
- Manure piled four to eight feet high in five locations at Wright County Egg, leaning against and pushing open doors that allowed wildlife to enter the laying houses;
- Non-chicken feathers in a laying house and wild birds flying in and out of two facilities at Wright County Egg;
- Manure seeping through the foundation to the outside of laying houses in 13 locations at Wright County Egg;
- Rusted holes in feed bins and birds flying over the feed bins at Wright County Egg;
Wright County Egg officials released a statement saying that they are working "around the clock" to address the FDA's concerns.
"To date, the vast majority of the concerns identified in the FDA report already have been addressed through repairs or other corrective measures," the company said. "We anticipate the expeditious completion of nearly all remaining items by mid-September."
Hillandale Farms released a similar statement, saying some of the issues had already been identified by the company.
Because illnesses such as salmonella usually originate from feces, access to wildlife and animal feces are normally the main concerns of investigators looking for causes of an outbreak.
The FDA's deputy commissioner for foods told reporters on Monday that the agency cannot say how these conditions compare to other egg farms around the country. However, he did add that they are "significant deviations from what is expected."
In the past, the FDA has not traditionally inspected egg farms until a problem is detected. However, the agency will now inspect all of the nation's largest farms by the end of 2011, according to an announcement by the Obama administration last week.
No deaths have been reported due to the outbreak, but the number of illnesses, especially to those with weakened immune systems, is expected to increase. Illnesses from salmonella poisoning can be life-threatening.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is the largest outbreak of this strain of salmonella since the start of the agency's surveillance of outbreaks in the late 1970s.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.