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Corrupt Eggcentric Austin “Jack” DeCoster’s Salmonella Factory

August 21, 2010 Marler Blog - antifascistencyclopedia.com 

I spoke with Alec MacGillis this morning about the 550,000,000 eggs being recalled and the 1,300 people sickened and the company, Wright County Egg, in the middle of it. His story, Before salmonella outbreak, egg firm had long record of violations,” and the violations he cites is even shocking to me, and I have been at this for 17 years. I must tell you, I am looking forward to putting him under oath. Here are a few examples:

  • In June, for instance, the family agreed to pay a $34,675 fine stemming from allegations of animal cruelty against hens in its 5 million-bird Maine operation. An animal rights group used a hidden camera to document hens suffocating in garbage cans, twirled by their necks, kicked into manure pits to drown and hanging by their feet over conveyer belts.
  • In 1992, a criminal complaint against DeCoster’s operation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore alleged that it had sold eggs to a store in Cecilton and to the Cecil County Detention Center in violation of a salmonella quarantine order.

In 1996, DeCoster was fined $3.6 million for health and safety violations at the family’s Turner egg farm, which then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich termed “as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we have seen.” Regulators found that workers had been forced to handle manure and dead chickens with their bare hands and to live in filthy trailers.

  • In 1999, the company paid $5 million to settle wage-and-hour claims involving 3,000 workers.
  • In 2001, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that DeCoster was a “repeat violator” of state environmental laws, citing violations involving the family’s hog-farming operations. The family was forbidden to expand its hog-farming interests in the state.
  • Also in 2001, DeCoster Farms of Iowa settled, for $1.5 million, a complaint brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that DeCoster had subjected 11 undocumented female workers from Mexico to a “sexually hostile work environment,” including sexual assault and rape by supervisors.
  • In 2002, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the family’s Maine Contract Farming operation $345,810 for an array of violations. The same year, DeCoster Egg Farms of Maine paid $3.2 million to settle a lawsuit filed in 1998 by Mexican workers alleging discrimination in housing and working conditions.
  • In 2003, Jack DeCoster paid the federal government $2.1 million as part of a plea agreement after federal agents found more than 100 undocumented workers at his Iowa egg farms. It was the largest penalty ever against an Iowa employer. Three years later, agents found 30 workers suspected of being illegal immigrants at a DeCoster farm in Iowa. And in 2007, raids in Iowa uncovered 51 more undocumented workers.
  • In 2006, Ohio’s Agriculture Department revoked the permits of Ohio Fresh Eggs because its new co-owners, including Hillandale founder Orland Bethel, had failed to disclose that DeCoster had put up $126 million for the purchase, far more than their $10,000, and was heavily involved in managing the company. By playing down DeCoster’s role, the owners had avoided a background check into DeCoster’s “habitual violator” status in Iowa. An appeals court overturned the revocation.
  • In 2008, OSHA cited DeCoster’s Maine Contract Farming for violations that included forcing workers to retrieve eggs the previous winter from inside a building that had collapsed under ice and snow.

I hope these guys have good lawyers and lots of insurance.

From the Huffington Post: Robert Reich's blog, "Corporate Rotten Eggs,”  it is clear that DeCoster was a known scofflaw from 1997.  Character runs deep.  If the big boss is a scofflaw in one area, he'll almost certainly be a scofflaw in other areas.  Thus, his businesses were clearly high risk but our regulators don't appear to have handled them that way.

We must learn the correct lesson from the Wright County Egg.  The huge recall arose because the FDA and, possibly, other government regulators did not do a good job.  It, also, informs us about S 510 by raising the questions, “How many of our food safety problems are due to the FDA’s failure to do its job?  And, “How does will S 510 hold the FDA accountable?”

Note: Corporations often own not only the factory farm but also other aspects of the food production system, including the feed company, slaughterhouse and final stages of production. In North America, a handful of companies dominate food production and distribution.

Comment: DeCoster is evil and uncaring. Whether it’s environmental, animal, or human abuses, it’s all about power and greed. Fines are just a cost of doing business to him - maybe with this latest scandal his factory farming business will go out of business - unlikely, but we can’t continue down this route.   

Factory farming and the spread of disease go hand in hand. According to the National Academy of Sciences, roughly 70 percent of the antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs used in the U.S. are fed to farm animals not only to promote growth but to prevent rampant disease from striking animals that are kept in filthy, stressful environments. In fact, many common bacteria including salmonella and a few other culprits like Campylobacter, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and E. coli) have even developed a resistance to these drugs. One person can make a difference; be that one-for your own health, for the animals, and the environment go vegan. Buy locally or grow your own.

Thanks to all those who do undercover work and risk their safety to expose the brutality, the players, and dark side of this obscene industry. 

June 5, 2012 DeCoster knew of salmonella months before massive recall  

June 4, 2014 Egg company executives facing charges for food-safety violations, crimes


Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Far-Reaching, Humane Egg Bill

July 9, 2010 Care2 Sharon Seltzer 

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a historic bill on July 6 that will extend protection to egg-laying hens that live in other states, if the egg producers want to do business in California.  The new humane law will have hens across the country spreading their wings with joy. 

The bill, AB1437 will require out-of-state egg farmers that want to sell eggs in California grocery stores to adhere to the humane confinement rules created by Proposition 2.  That law was passed in 2008 and will be fully implemented by 2015.   Proposition 2 ends the use of inhumane battery cages to house chickens. 

The Humane Society of the United States said this means all hens that contribute to the egg industry in California must be housed in cages that allow them to “stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs without touching one another or the sides of an enclosure” – whether or not they live in the state.  HSUS was one of the animal welfare organizations that backed the landmark bill which was introduced by Assemblyman Jared Huffman. 

Farm Sanctuary wrote in their blog about the huge impact AB1437 will have on the nation’s hens. “California is the nation’s most populated state and it represents a huge market for eggs and other products, so banning the sale of battery cage eggs in California is extremely significant and will go a long way toward pushing egg producers to move away from these cruel confinement systems.” 

Egg producers that do not comply with the new law will face up to 180 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.  Just two states, California and Michigan, have passed laws to phase out battery cages. 

Ten years ago, there were no laws in the U.S. protecting farm animals from inhumane housing such as veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages.  Now there are eight states that have banned some of these cruel housing systems: Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, California, Michigan and Ohio. 

Both HSUS and Farm Sanctuary are confident there will be more victories coming for animals raised at factory farms.

January 24, 2012 Widespread opposition against United Egg Producers' Rotten Egg Bill

November 18, 2011 Activists expose cruelty at McDonald's egg supplier

November 19, 2011 Police raid illegal slaughterplant; unimaginable cruelties revealed

February 10, 2012 Mistreated livestock ‘an embarrassment’ to Australian industry