By STEVE BROWN

Capital Press

BURLINGTON, Wash. -- The owner of a Skagit County egg farm embargoed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture "is pursuing his options for a depopulation plan," according to a WSDA spokesman.

The embargo was imposed in early March after a sample of chicken feed from Daizen Farms tested positive for salmonella. Besides the contaminated feed, the eggs were allegedly packaged under unsanitary conditions on the farm, and WSDA inspectors observed rodent droppings inside an egg-washing machine during use, the WSDA said.

To date, public health officials have linked no human illnesses to the eggs, most of which are sold directly from the farm or to independent Asian grocery stores and restaurants in Skagit, Snohomish and King counties.

"The embargo is still in effect," WSDA communications director Jason Kelly said April 10. "The operator knows the eggs and the feed aren't fit for human consumption."

Efforts are under way for a third party to compost the eggs. The same procedure could be used for the 30,000 chickens and the feed.

"Proper composting would eliminate the possibility of transmission of salmonella," he said.

Capital Press attempts to contact the farm's operators and owner were unsuccessful. The owner does not speak much English, but Kelly said WSDA has been in communication through family members and interpreters.

The license for Daizen Farms has been suspended. If the owner wants to reactivate the license, that would require sanitation of the structure and a reinspection.

"From WSDA's perspective, the most important response is that chickens, eggs and feed remain on the operation," he said. "We're working with county officials to assure appropriate protocols are followed to prevent the spread of the disease to animals or people."

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