Friday, September 03, 2010

Ex-workers at egg farms say safety complaints were ignored

I wonder if this is one of the agencies where Republicans are blocking President Obama's appointments. Even once he appoints a head of an agency, it takes time to effect change. After 8 years of Bush, we can expect that some government agencies do not have an orientation to service to the public. But according to Libertarians, we don't need government regulation, because business will do the right thing. Silly.

updated 9/3/2010 9:37:51 AM ET

DES MOINES, Iowa — U.S. Agriculture Department employees working full-time at two Iowa egg farms at the center of a salmonella outbreak and massive recall ignored complaints about conditions at one site, two former employees say.

The ex-workers at Wright County Egg facilities, Robert and Deanna Arnold, said they reported problems such as leaking manure and dead chickens to USDA employees, but nothing was done.

The USDA employees were based next to areas where roughly 7.7 million caged hens laid eggs at the two operations, but agency spokesman Caleb Weaver said their main duties were "grading" the eggs and they weren't primarily responsible for looking for health problems.

In response to the outbreak that has led to a recall of about 550 million eggs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration examined the Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms and noted in a report this week that inspectors found rodents, wild birds, seeping manure and maggots in the operations there.

Weaver said the USDA employee who oversaw grading at the facility did not recall anyone raising issues.

'They didn't care'
The USDA "graders" worked in buildings adjacent to where hens laid eggs, focusing on weighing, measuring and inspecting eggs before they were packaged. They are the people who determine if an egg is A or AA, for instance.

"It didn't matter which USDA officer was working, if we reported something they would just turn their heads," Deanna Arnold said. "They didn't care."

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