but the inspectors were not allowed to enter the hen houses--fifty feet away---because of food safety regulations. The hen houses were supposed to be inspected by the FDA but the agency never went to the farm despite its past run-ins with regulators. The state of Iowa said their inspectors did not inspect Wright County Egg due to the presence of the full time on site USDA inspector.
USDA inspectors were at Wright County Egg to conduct egg grading, ensuring the farm's eggs were the right size and shape to earn the USDA egg grading seal. USDA has told CBS News that the egg grading program is not a food safety program and is therefore not responsible for detecting salmonella. The program is paid for with funds from egg producers.
USDA inspectors at Wright County noted problems in the packing facility repeatedly referring to cracked egg shells and egg yolks on the equipment.
On May 4, 2010 the inspector notes, "flies need to be controlled." Later in the month on the 23rd, "Smells like rotten eggs over by hand pack..."
In June, 2010: "Bugs everywhere, halls and beams,"; "Bugs in processing"; "Bugs in storage,"; "Storage area had lots of bugs all over,"; "bugs, mold on walls in processing area..."
Also in June, two mice were noted: "mouse in trap by side door," and on June 14, 2010, "Lunch room has mouse in the light."
In July, 2010: "Bugs in storage," ; "dry storage area has lots of bugs,"; "bugs in chemical room,"
And in August just days before the recall, "Bugs in processing area..."
"There seems to be an issue as to what the USDA knew about the sanitation issues at the two farms in Iowa," said Tony Corbo, Senior Lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, "and why they didn't convey any concerns to the FDA for any possible food safety implications."
FDA has tested 600 samples taken from two egg farms in Iowa, 17 have tested positive for salmonella according to the CDC.
Earlier this summer, FDA has implemented a new "egg rule" that imposes new testing requirements and beefs up inspections.
USDA officials say the outbreak of salmonella "exemplifies the critical need to make significant improvements in the food safety system and that is why the Obama Administration has made this a top priority since the beginning and is working aggressively to do so." Officials at both USDA and FDA have advocated for the passage of a bill stalled in the Senate that would overhaul the food safety system. The bill has bipartisan support and is backed by both food safety advocates and the food industry.