2000 sickened: fines and possible jail for Salmonella-in-egg owners

In 2010, eggs produced by farms owned by Jack DeCoster in Iowa sickened at least 2,000 people with Salmonella. The companies recalled 550 million eggs nationwide.

Today, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, 79, and Peter DeCoster, 50, agreed to pay $7 million in fines and forfeitures as part of a federal criminal case scheduled for hearing Tuesday.

egg.farmProsecutors allege Quality Egg on at least two occasions in 2010, including April 12, 2010, offered money to a “public official with intent to influence an official act.”

On April 12, 2010, Quality Egg employees offered a USDA inspector $300 to release eggs for sale that had failed to meet federal standards, according to criminal charges filed in 2012 against Tony Wasmund, a former Quality Egg employee.

Wasmund, 63, of Willmar, Minn., pleaded guilty in September 2012 to conspiring to bribe an egg inspector. His sentencing has been rescheduled four times, leading to speculation prosecutors were using his testimony against the DeCosters.

The trial information also states Quality Egg knowingly sold eggs between Jan. 1, 2006, and Aug. 12, 2010, that were mislabeled to appear fresher than they were.

Federal prosecutors charge Iowa egg company, 2 executives in 2010 salmonella outbreak

In 2010, eggs produced by farms owned by Jack DeCoster in Iowa sickened at least 2,000 people with Salmonella.

Federal prosecutors have now filed charges against disgraced egg industry titan Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, a misdemeanor.

egg.dirty.feb.12Their company, Quality Egg LLC, is charged with introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce, a felony. The document says Quality Egg sold products for years with labeling that “made the eggs appear to be not as old as they actually were.”

The company is also charged with bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector.

The charges were filed in a document called an information, which suggests they’ve reached plea agreements.

But it’s a safe product: ex Iowa egg manager pleads guilty to bribery conspiracy

A manager at the Iowa egg farms linked to the 2010 salmonella outbreak has pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to bribe an inspector to allow the sale of unapproved eggs.

AP reports former DeCoster Farms manager Tony Wasmund acknowledged in a hearing in Sioux City that he conspired to bribe a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector in order to sell restricted eggs and misbranded food.

Wasmund was a manager in the companies owned by Jack DeCoster, whose egg production operations were blamed for the outbreak that caused the recall of 550 million eggs and sickened hundreds.

Wasmund admitted he authorized giving $300 in cash to be used by another employee to influence the inspector to approve the sale of eggs that’d been withheld for failing to meet USDA standards.

Wal-Mart and Costco want nothing to do with DeCoster eggs (good); multi-million lawsuits between egg execs does nothing for sick people (bad)

 Executives with the Iowa egg farms at the center of last year’s salmonella outbreak that sickened nearly 2,000 and led to the recall of 500 million eggs are locked in a legal battle.

Austin "Jack" DeCoster, the man who owns the egg farms, and his former right-hand man, John Glessner are bickering to the tune of $40 million in lawsuits.

In one lawsuit Glessner claims that the DeCoster family has mismanaged its Iowa egg production facilities and deprived him of more than $40 million, including more than $10 million in rent for use of his Hardin County facility, defaulted on bank loans, been "blackballed" by food vendors and been barred from bidding on contracts with retailers.

Clark Kauffman of The Des Moines Register writes in today’s USA Today that DeCoster’s Ohio Fresh Egg company is suing Glessner, accusing him of looting the company before he was fired this summer.

An executive with Hillandale Farms of Iowa, which was forced to recall 170 million eggs, sent an e-mail to Glessner in August 2010 saying DeCoster had become a liability to Hillandale.

"Unfortunately, Hillandale Farms can have absolutely no association with Jack, anywhere," wrote Orland Bethel, Hillandale’s founder. "We have been told by Costco and Wal-Mart that they will not be doing any business if Jack and his people have any involvement in management."

Salmonella Jack gets out of egg business

Jack DeCoster, the Iowa egg producer whose farms were involved in a salmonella outbreak last year that sickened almost 2,000 people and led to a recall of 500 million eggs, is maybe getting out of the egg biz.

The Des Moines Register reports two Iowa farm families will lease and manage the DeCoster egg operation for up to nine years with an option to purchase Ohio’s largest egg farm operation from DeCoster.

The Deans and Hennings will take over Ohio Fresh Eggs farms in Licking, Hardin and Wyandot counties. The Licking operations are expanding.

J.T. Dean of Sioux Center, Ia., said, "Jack DeCoster made the decision to exit the business and we were working with them on the Iowa production facilities, and we started discussing Ohio and fell in love with it.”

"This has all happened pretty quickly. I just see a lot of potential. (The facilities) just need to be managed properly. I think we need to be very honest and open."

"There’s not much I can do to change perception, other than be a good operator and let time heal those wounds.”

Salmonella-tainted eggs linked to U.S. government’s failure to act; screw consumers

Government is hopeless. Endless meetings, competing agendas, bruised egos – all in an effort to get a national salmonella-egg rule passed going back to the 1980s.

The Washington Post has a blow-by-blow account of the bureaucratic wankfest that is federal egg safety, which will keep politicos intrigued with their Saturday morning lattes and eggs Benedict, but offers nothing for the over-easy crowd.

The salmonella-in-eggs outbreak this summer sickened over 1,900 with plenty of blame to go around – negligent ownership, lax inspections, awful auditors and retailers who didn’t want to know. But after reading the Post account, does anyone really want the feds in charge?

Lester Crawford, whose own bout with salmonella in 1986 turned the issue into a personal battle, pushed for egg regulation while running the food safety program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1987 to 1991, and he said he was stunned by the lack of progress when he joined the Food and Drug Administration as acting deputy commissioner in 2002.

"The system certainly was at its worst. … I went nuts. I was told it was ready to go and all we needed to do was say yes, so I said yes.”

He kept up the fight through 2005, when he left the agency.

The regulations that took effect this year require farmers to buy chickens that are certified free of salmonella, test those chickens while they are laying eggs and, if there is a positive test, stop selling whole eggs.

In the absence of federal regulation, some states began in the 1990s to enact their own rules, many focused on refrigeration. But the varying requirements created headaches for producers selling nationwide.

The health of chickens falls under the USDA, but the FDA oversees the safety of whole eggs. Once an egg is broken and made into an "egg product," responsibility for its safety switches back to the USDA.

The USDA also oversees transportation of whole eggs, but the FDA dictates how they should be stored once they reach restaurants or stores.

Because salmonella wasn’t making chickens sick, the USDA initially decided not to intervene. USDA inspectors are in packing facilities, but henhouses normally are the purview of the FDA. And the FDA rarely inspected henhouses.

The FDA has not routinely inspected egg farms because it has not established rules or standards, Deputy Commissioner Joshua M. Sharfstein said.

I get that the feds failed. But as a consumer, am I supposed to have faith that FDA has checked out Salmonella Jack DeCoster’s operations, now that his eggs are back on retail shelves?

What if I want to avoid DeCoster’s eggs, because he has a bad track record and will soon be slip-slidin’ away to the lowest common denominator?

Repeated outbreaks have shown there are good producers and bad producers, good retailers and bad retailers. As a consumer, I have no way of knowing.

Tell consumers about salmonella-testing programs meant to reduce risks; put a URL on egg cartons so those who are interested can use the Internet or even personal phones to see how the eggs were raised and testing data. The best producers and processors will go far beyond the lowest common denominator of government and should be rewarded in the marketplace.

Sorenne, eggs for breakfast?

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.

Egg recall: Mouse, fly infestations date back 10 years, workers say

Just like with the salmonella outbreak involving Peanut Corporation of America, employees of DeCoster egg operations in Iowa are now coming forward to say problems with mice, filth and flies go back at least 10 years.

Past and present workers at Wright County Egg said mouse and fly infestations cited in a federal report stretch back at least a decade.?? The workers also reported ammonia levels high enough to cause chronic health problems, and inconsistent availability of safety equipment such as face masks and gloves.

Dozens of chickens died daily, their bodies lying undiscovered in cages for days, and perhaps weeks, at a time, they said.?? "There’s always been mice," former worker Lucas Garcias said through an interpreter. "I saw maggots and sometimes mice on the conveyor belt.”

And who was governor of Iowa during those years? Step forward current U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack.

Philip Brasher of the DesMoinesRegister.com also writes today the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is taking a second look at its authority over the Galt feed mill that supplied the DeCoster egg operations. The state agency had decided before the massive egg recall linked to the DeCoster farms that the feed mill was exempt from state oversight. Company officials told inspectors that the DeCoster-owned mill only supplied the company’s hens. That exemption has been called into question by news that the mill was supplying feed to a second company, Hillandale Farms of Iowa, that was also involved in the recall.