Salmonella in eggs; DeCoster and Son go to DC

There’ll be the usual posturing, handwringing and contrition for the cameras at today’s Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.

Philip Brasher of the Des Moines Register reports this morning that Jack DeCoster and his son, Peter, will apologize at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee meeting today to the 1,608 confirmed victims of a salmonella outbreak and pledge not to resume selling fresh eggs until their farms are free from disease.

“While we always believed we were doing the right thing, it is now very clear that we must do more,” said Peter DeCoster, who is chief operating officer of the Wright County Egg operations, which his father owns.

In a 10-page statement obtained by The Des Moines Register, the men point to a feed ingredient purchased from an outside supplier as the likely source of the salmonella contamination. Federal investigators have reported finding salmonella in several areas of the farms in addition to the feed mill.

This is a terrible strategy. Blaming others and failing to outline what DeCoster and Son were actually doing in terms of testing and other steps to manage the risk of salmonella – before the outbreak — will be a rhetorical playground for even the most addle-minded Congressional-types.

It’ll be like angry parents scolding a teenager who says, sorry, I won’t do it again.

The accused is sorry he got caught.


The N.Y. Times documented this morning the 1987 salmonella-in-eggs outbreak that killed nine and sickened 500, linked to farms owned by … Austin Jack DeCoster.

Farms tied to Mr. DeCoster were a primary source of Salmonella enteritidis in the United States in the 1980s, when some of the first major outbreaks of human illness from the bacteria in eggs occurred, according to health officials and public records. At one point, New York and Maryland regulators believed DeCoster eggs were such a threat that they banned sales of the eggs in their states.

How many others were sickened by DeCoster and Son eggs over the intervening 23 years, in the absence of an outbreak?

Government’s hopeless.

Market microbial food safety at retail so I, as a consumer, have a choice, so I can reward those egg producers who effectively manage salmonella – before there’s an outbreak.