Grassroots campaign spurs supermarket chains to distance themselves from egg-farm owner with history of FDA violations, including recent salmonella outbreak
CLEAR LAKE, Iowa – Two major retail supermarket chains, Trader Joe’s and Fareway Stores Inc., have agreed to pull DeCoster-affiliated brands of eggs from the shelves of their combined 442 stores nationwide. The news comes as a result from pressure from Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots community of over 150,000 Americans, after it was announced that the recent salmonella outbreak, which affected thousands, stemmed from two Iowa facilities owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster.
Earlier this week, Food Democracy Now! began calling on its members to send messages to supermarkets nationwide to stop selling egg brands that come from DeCoster’s facilities after it became known that Wright County and Hillandale Farms – both owned by Jack DeCoster – were the source of the latest salmonella outbreak in eggs that sickened thousands of Americans and caused a nationwide recall of over 550 million eggs. To date, the petition has over 31,000 signatures and has been Food Democracy Now!’s source of support in calling on supermarket chains affiliated with DeCoster and asking them to make their customers’ safety a top priority.
“While Americans wait for the federal government to take action against DeCoster and his business, it is imperative that we take action to make sure that the American consumer continues to purchase food items without the fear of falling ill from manufacturer negligence,” said Dave Murphy, founder and Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!. “Trader Joe’s and Fareway Stores, Inc. have done the right thing and helped prevent any further endangerment to their customers – we hope that other grocery stores will do the right thing and follow in their footsteps.”
This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a damning report, detailing filthy conditions at Wright County Egg, Hillandale Farms and Quality Egg LLC, the DeCoster-owned feed mill that supplied both facilities with the salmonella tainted feed. The FDA reported the existence of live rodents in laying houses, overflowing piles of manure up to eight feet high, and an exorbitant amount of flies and maggots throughout the facilities.
The news of Jack DeCoster’s involvement in the latest salmonella outbreak adds to a gross record amount of state and federal human rights, labor rights, environmental, and animal cruelty violations. In the past two decades, DeCoster-owned farms across the country have been fined more than $15.7 million for dozens of incidents.
In 1996, DeCoster was fined $3.6 million for one of his egg factory farms that then Secretary of Labor Robert Reich called “as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we’ve seen”. In 2001, DeCoster was accused of subjecting undocumented female employees to a “sexually hostile work environment” that included rape and sexual assault by supervisors. DeCoster settled the case for $1.5 million.
In the past thirty years, America’s food system has become highly consolidated into the hands of smaller agribusiness corporations that routinely put profits over public safety, the well being of workers and concern for community. Murphy and his team at Food Democracy Now! believe that the root cause of this latest salmonella outbreak is intense and dangerous consolidation in our food system.
“First it was spinach, then it was peanuts – now it’s eggs,” Murphy continued. “As the trend towards consolidation has spread in food and agricultural production, increased facility size and centralized processing facilities are leading to massive food safety outbreaks that put our nation further at risk. Americans have had enough of a broken food system that is prone to dangerous and deadly outbreaks of food-borne illness, treats its workers like dirt, and is making the dream of family farming a distant memory. It’s time that the Obama administration follow through on its campaign promises of regulating factory farms and cleaning up our broken food system so that bad actors and bad practices don’t put our families in danger again.”
The news regarding Trader Joe’s and Fareway Stores Inc., is the first step in a broader effort to get DeCoster’s bad eggs off American grocery store shelves permanently and to shine a spotlight in the darkest corners of America’s dangerously over-industrialized and consolidated food system.
About Food Democracy Now!
Food Democracy Now! is a grassroots community of over 150,000 Americans dedicated to building a sustainable food system that protects our natural environment, sustains farmers and nourishes families. For more information, visit http://www.fooddemocracynow.org.