On April 13, the FDA reported that more than 206 million eggs were recalled from supermarkets because they were linked to a salmonella outbreak. According to a report from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Rose Acre Farms were forced to issue the recall after officials traced these cases back to the company's facility in North Carolina.
The FDA later uncovered that the salmonella outbreak started on March 5 and, as of April 16, sickened 35 people and hospitalized 11. They learned about a cluster of salmonella outbreaks, leading to investigators working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state authorities, to find the source of the problem. This eventually brought them to an egg farm in Hyde County, North Carolina.
Affected eggs were sold under multiple brand names, including Country Daybreak, Coburn Farms, Crystal Farms, Sunshine Farms, and Glenview. These eggs found their way into homes from all sorts of places, as these brands are sold in a multitude of locations.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the reason for the recall was that the FDA found "unacceptable rodent activity" at the farm responsible for the eggs that caused the salmonella outbreak.
According to the Washington Post, the egg farm that produced the salmonella-ridden eggs, Rose Acre Farms in North Carolina, had a heavy rodent infestation that it failed to properly address. In the original report cited in the article, the FDA said that it had discovered dozens of live and dead rodents inside Rose Acre Farms' hen houses during an inspection they conducted from March 26 to April 11.
Many rodents were seen "burrowing in and out of manure piles." The FDA investigators also found baby rodents and rodent carcasses inside the hen houses, as well as what appeared to be rodent burrows. This, the FDA reported, was evidence of "unacceptable rodent activity."
The discovery of rodents - as well as several other indications of "unsanitary conditions and poor employee practices" - led the FDA to conclude that Rose Acre Farms was not following federal health and safety guidelines. People on the internet, quite naturally, reacted with disgust and wondered what might be considered an "acceptable" level of rodent activity.
@WildPalmsLtd wrote, "I shudder to think what “unacceptable rodent activity” might comprise. Of course I'm unclear if there is any "acceptable" rodent activity in a food processing context..." @Amelieferdias added Can someone give me the definition of “unacceptable rodent activity” vs any type of rodent activity ??"
Despite the fact that people on Twitter seem to believe that any level of rodent activity should be considered unacceptable, the FDA does tolerate some level of rodent activity in food processing centers. "There are unavoidable defects when you're dealing with food," says one representative. They explained that it is economically impractical to process food in a way that is totally free of naturally occuring defects such as mold, rodent filth, or insect filth.
As the FDA representative explained, that's why the federal agency sets maximum levels of defects in food. These defect levels represent the limits at which the FDA will consider a food product "adulterated" and subject to enforcement. If a food product is found to contain defects that fall below those levels, then it would probably be considered acceptable.
According to the FDA's Defect Levels Handbook, the level of rodent activity is measured by the number of rodent hairs. There is no threshold for hairs found in egg products. The FDA representative did say that a small amount of rodent hair would probably be considered acceptable in most food products - including eggs. If you're still keen for a plate of eggs, be careful how you prepare them.