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Salmonella Egg King Jack DeCoster to Testify in Congress

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on September 21, 2010 - 1:55pm

After multiple postponements, "habitual violator" Jack DeCoster is set to testify on Wednesday, September 22, 12:00 noon in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building in front of the Subcommitee on Oversight and Investigations regarding the recent Salmonella recall associated with shell eggs produced by Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa.

The, hearing, innocuously titled "The Outbreak of Salmonella in Eggs", will be the first chance that Americans have to learn firsthand of the horrendous violations of federal food safety standards straight from Jack DeCoster himself, who, according to press reports is willing to "coorperate", despite the ongoing investigation, which now includes potential criminal wrongdoing.

The following witnesses have been called to testify:

1. Mr. Austin DeCoster
    Owner
    Wright County Egg
 
2. Ms. Orland Bethel
    President
    Hillandale Farms of Iowa 

3. Mr. Michael R. Taylor
    Deputy Commissioner for Foods
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration

4. Sarah Lewis - Victim

5. Carol Laboto - Victim


See the attached briefing memo from the House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding the DeCoster hearing:

MEMORANDUM
 
September 20, 2010


To: Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
 
Fr: Committee on Energy and Commerce Staff
 
Re: Hearing on “The Outbreak of Salmonella in Eggs”
 
On Wednesday, September 22, 2010, at 12:00 p.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House
Office Building
, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled,
“The Outbreak of Salmonella in Eggs.”  This hearing will examine the recent Salmonella
outbreak associated with shell eggs produced by Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of
Iowa.
 
The hearing continues the Subcommittee’s investigative activities concerning the
adequacy of efforts to ensure the safety and security of the nation’s food supply.  In the 110th
Congress, the Subcommittee held nine hearings regarding food safety issues, including an E. coli
outbreak traced to tainted spinach, melamine-contaminated pet food, and intentional exposure of
meat and seafood to carbon monoxide.  In this Congress, the Subcommittee has held hearings on
a Salmonella outbreak associated with peanut products manufactured by the Peanut Corporation
of America, the actions and obligations of food manufacturers and retailers that purchase tainted
food products, the safety of bottled water, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s
management of international food imports and inspections of domestic food facilities.
 
I.  BACKGROUND
 
Fifteen federal agencies administer at least 30 federal laws concerning food safety.  The
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety
and Inspection Service (FSIS) are primarily responsible for ensuring the safety of food products. 
FSIS oversees domestically-produced and imported meat, poultry, and processed egg products;
FDA regulates all other foods, including fruits, vegetables, seafood, milk, and eggs.

 A. The Salmonella Outbreak 
 
In July 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified an
outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections across the country that began in May 2010.1  From
May 1 through August 31, 2010, a total of 1,469 people reported illnesses that are likely to be
associated with this outbreak.2  FDA and CDC identified Wright County Egg and Hillandale
Farms of Iowa as the potential sources of contaminated shell eggs associated with this outbreak.3
 
On August 13, 2010, Wright County Egg, located in Galt, Iowa, issued a voluntary recall
due to possible contamination of shell eggs with Salmonella Enteritidis.4  Five days later, the
company expanded its recall.5  On August 20, 2010, Hillandale Farms of Iowa issued a
nationwide voluntary recall of its shell eggs.6  Overall, the two companies have voluntarily
recalled approximately 550 million eggs due to potential Salmonella Enteritidis contamination.7
 
B. The FDA Investigation 
 
FDA investigators inspected multiple facilities of Wright County Egg from August 12
through August 30, 2010.8  In the course of their investigation, officials found chicken manure
reaching eight feet high, employees who did not wear or change protective clothing when
moving from one laying house to another, and many live mice throughout the facilities. 
Inspectors also observed wild birds sitting near and flying over grain bins that contained chicken
feed.  In total, six samples taken from the facilities and feed supply tested positive for Salmonella
Enteritidis.9
 
FDA also inspected facilities of Hillandale Farms of Iowa.10  During inspections from
August 19 through August 26, 2010, investigators found numerous unsealed rodent holes, liquid
manure “streaming” from a crack in the manure pit, and uncaged hens tracking manure
throughout the laying facilities.  FDA found Salmonella Enteritidis in a sample of spent water
from an egg wash station.11    
 
II. WITNESSES
 
 The following witnesses have been invited to testify:
 
 Mr. Austin DeCoster
 Owner
 Wright County Egg
 
 Ms. Orland Bethel
 President
 Hillandale Farms of Iowa
 
 Mr. Michael R. Taylor 
 Deputy Commissioner for Foods
 U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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