FDA Continues Egg Salmonella Investigation; Farm Owner Had Long History of Violations

[img_assist|nid=190457|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=250|height=168]August 27 — The US Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday that it has discovered positive results for salmonella in tainted food supply at Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms in Iowa. The owners of these two farms have been called to testify in front of Congress about the outbreak next month. It is unclear whether they will agree to appear or will be subpoenaed.

What is clear is that the owner of Wright County Egg, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, has a long and ignominious history of safety and other legal violations. Some of those alleged abuses include:

  • A 1996 citation for labor and safety violations, that led to a $2 million fine, described by then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich “as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop.” Reich noted unguarded machinery, electrical hazards, exposure to harmful bacteria and other unsanitary conditions, among the violations.
  • A 2000 designation by the state of Iowa of DeCoster as a “habitual violator” of environmental regulations, for violations such as dumping hog manure runoff into waterways.
  • A 2002 settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against DeCoster Farms that alleged Mexican workers were subjected to rape, sexual harassment, abuse and retaliation by some farm supervisors.
  • A June 2010 settlement over animal cruelty allegations spurred by a hidden-camera investigation.

While the Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms are independent, they share close ties, including the same suppliers of chickens and feed.

Although thorough cooking can kill the salmonella bacteria, consumers are being advised to throw away or return any recalled eggs. Salmonella enteritidis infections can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea and fever. Salmonella infections are rarely fatal, except in people with depressed immune systems. So far, no deaths have been reported as a result of the half a billion eggs that have been recalled.

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