By: Candess Zona-Mendola
I am the granddaughter of a poultry farmer.
As a child, I grew up chasing ducks, feeding chickens, collecting eggs, and keeping away from the geese (mean little buggers they were). This also means that I learned a thing or two on bird keeping. Rather, how birds can make us humans sick if we are not careful.
As an adult, I am a food safety advocate and the editor of a food safety blog. I see everything from food poisoning from eggs, in eating chicken products, to various species of Salmonella poisoning in humans from hugging and playing with baby chickens.
Salmonella & Eggs
But enough about me and my history with chickens. I’d rather talk about the elephant in the room right now in the poultry world – Salmonella outbreaks in eggs.
For those of you who may not know, we are at the tail end of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup linked to shell eggs. Yes, the Salmonella bacteria were found on the shell of the egg, not the inside. The outbreak sickened 35 people (11 of which were hospitalized) in 9 states. Over 200 million eggs were recalled under multiple different brand names and from multiple stores across the 9 affected states. Some eggs may have made it as far as the Caribbean, Mexico, and maybe even China through foreign consignees.
And why? All because of poor sanitation practices and pretty severe rodent infestation.
Keeping It Clean & Tidy
If you are reading this, you likely know your stuff (or are learning a thing or two about chickens). You know that chickens should not live in your home. That Salmonella bacteria often live in their gut and do not make them sick. And that keeping a clean coop bodes well not just for humans, but for your chickens as well.
In the latest shell egg outbreak, the FDA found several live and dead rodents in all of the chicken coops. The rodents were living in the manure pits, tracking feces all over the coops and nests – among other areas. Equally concerning was the fact that the coops had not been adequately cleaned.
But that’s not even the grossest thing I have to tell you.
The egg processing facility had an equally concerning tale to tell. The FDA found condensation dripping from the ceiling onto the production equipment, employees storing cleaning materials in dirty buckets with leftover egg liquids, and an all-around disregard for sanitization of the facility.
Prevention is the Key to a Happy Egg Farmer
Cleaning is a simple and effective way to keep humans and birds healthy. It is also one of the best ways to ensure your eggs are not the cause of some major illnesses (or outbreaks) in your friends, family, or customers. We were lucky in this last outbreak that no one died, but that is not always the case. Severe Salmonella poisoning can be deadly.
So, scrub that coop. Keep those chickens outside. And don’t forget to wash your hands.
Because a healthy egg farmer is a happy one.