The CDC’s most recent case count in the egg outbreak rose to 1,469 the other day.  It seems to have been understood from the beginning that prolific contamination in the facilities at Wright County Egg, resulted from inattentiveness, at best, and blatant disregard, at worst, in the production environment.  As more evidence comes in, one has to begin wondering when punitive damages might come into play. 

Here are some of the FDA’s findings to date:

  •  Chicken manure located in the manure pits below the egg laying operations was observed to be approximately 4 feet high to 8 feet high at [multiple]locations. The outside access doors to the manure pits at these locations had been pushed out by the weight of the manure, leaving open access to wildlife or domesticated animals.
  • Un-baited, unsealed holes appearing to be rodent burrows located along the second floor baseboards were observed.
  • Dark liquid which appeared to be manure was observed seeping through the concrete foundation to the outside of the laying houses at [multiple] locations.
  • Standing water approximately 3 inches deep was observed at the southeast corner of the manure pit located inside Layer 1 – House 13.
  • Un-caged birds (chickens having escaped) were observed in the egg laying operations in contact with the egg laying birds at Layer 3 – Houses 9 and 16. The un-caged birds were using the manure, which was approximately 8 feet high, to access the egg laying area.
  • Layer 3 – House 11, the house entrance door to access both House 11 and 12 was blocked with excessive amounts of manure in the manure pits.
  • There were between 2 to 5 live mice observed inside the egg laying Houses 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 14.
  • Live and dead flies too numerous to count were observed at [multiple] locations inside the egg laying houses. The live flies were on and around egg belts, feed, shell eggs and walkways in the different sections of each egg laying area. In addition, live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed on the manure pit floor located in Layer 2 – House 7.

And the hits keep on coming.  A married couple, Deanna and Robert Arnold, former employees at Wright County Egg, appeared on CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning to discuss some of the inexcusable safety violations that occurred at Wright County Egg during their tenure there.  A few examples:

  • repacking old eggs as fresh
  • live cats, live mice, dead mice, chicken bones, live chickens, dead chickens
  • the company routinely took eggs returned by grocery stores and repackaged them as fresh

Robert Arnold:  "The stuff that I seen there, you come to work in the morning, you’d see — supposedly it was all cleaned up and you would see egg yolk underneath the belts mixing up with the grease from the gears and stuff. You would see old eggs getting repacked and putting today’s date on them. When I’d question that, it was, ‘Oh, we do that all the time. Just go back to work."

Mr. Arnold also stated that he wouldn’t eat eggs from the plants he worked in. "It’s like somebody going to the candy store and getting a chocolate bar that’s like two months older. I mean, it should have been taken off the shelf," Arnold explained.

Wright County Egg issued its own response to Arnolds’ claims, saying, "Anytime there is a perceived issue on our farm, we expect our employees to immediately bring it to our attention, so that we may address it appropriately and swiftly. That is our policy, and that is their responsibility. To the best of our knowledge, no concerns were ever raised."

When told of Wright County Egg saying "no complaints were ever raised" by himself or Deanna, Robert replied, "You sit there and you tell a supervisor, ‘This ain’t right. You know, we’re putting old eggs into the containers. We’re putting today’s date on them.’ That’s as far as it went. (They’d say) ‘Robert, you just – OK, that’s just the way it is. Go back to work and finish out your day,’ and that’s as far as it goes.

My guess is that more and more problems will continue to come out of the woodwork for Wright County Egg.  Their history, and the evident food safety violations that laid the foundation for this outbreak, are too alarming to believe otherwise.