FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Justice Catches Up to the "Teflon Egg Don"

by

He was known as the “Teflon Egg Don.” For more than 35 years the egg farms associated with Austin “Jack” DeCoster have been accused of health and safety violations and worker, environmental and animal abuses but the charges have never stuck. Now, DeCoster and his son Peter are expected to plead guilty to introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and causing a nationwide salmonella outbreak in 2010 in the US. Their company, Quality Egg LLC, has agreed to pay $6.8 million in fines for selling old eggs with false labels for years and is expected to plead guilty to bribing a USDA inspector to approve sales of poor quality eggs. The DeCosters may also face jail time and be ordered to pay restitution to victims.

How bad was the salmonella outbreak? Half a billion salmonella contaminated eggs were recalled in August of 2010–380 million from the DeCoster-owned Wright County Egg in Iowa and 170 million from the DeCoster-linked Hillandale Farms, also in Iowa. Just when everyone thought the danger was over, 288,000 more eggs were recalled from the Jackson, MI-based Cal-Maine, an egg operation also connected to DeCoster-linked Ohio Fresh Eggs, two months later.

2010 was not the first time DeCoster eggs sickened humans. As early as 1982, one person had died and thirty-six were sickened in New Hampshire and 400 were sickened in  Massachusetts from eggs traced to DeCoster owned farms. Five years later, in 1987, nine people died and 500 were sickened in New York from eggs traced to DeCoster owned farms, according to the New York Times but the egg don was allowed to continue to do business.

By 1996, DeCoster had been cited for polluting groundwater with 100,000 rotting carcasses of birds he let perish in a fire, improper asbestos removal, housing egg workers in cockroach-infested fire-trap trailers, and hiring children as young as nine. Nonetheless he expanded his egg empire into Iowa, Ohio and Maryland.

In April of 2009, Maine state agriculture officials raided the DeCoster-run Quality Egg of New England and Maine Contract Farming (formerly the DeCoster Egg Farm) on the basis of videos depicting egregious conditions. For eight hours, law enforcement and agriculture officials collected hens from the reeking barns which were so full of ammonia from the birds’ droppings, four department workers were treated by doctors for burned lungs.

Finally, in 2010, Jack DeCoster was called to appear before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce because of 1,600 cases of salmonella linked to his operations. “When you testify before the Committee,” wrote Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), serving as Chair, “we ask that you come prepared to explain why your facilities tested potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis contamination on so many occasions, what steps you took to address the contamination identified in these test results, and whether you shared these results with FDA or other federal or state food safety officials.”

Appearing with his son Peter, DeCoster told the federal lawmakers he was sorry for making people sick but that the company had grown too big too soon. Right.

Government officials leapt to his defense. “One of the things I’ve always said about DeCoster is that when there’s a problem at his facilities, he acts fast,” said Kevin Buskins of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg reminded consumers it is their job to cook out salmonella germs. The important thing, she said, is to not eat your eggs with, “runny egg yolks for mopping up with toast.”

Large egg operations are a blight on the environment, animals, workers, surrounding neighbors and food consumers and DeCoster’s have been among the worst. Luckily justice has caught up with the Teflon Egg Don.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
John Stauber
The Rise and Fall of Obamacare: Will the Inside Story Ever be Told?
Ted Rall
Ameri-Splaining
Michael J. Sainato
Mainstream Media Continues Absolving Itself From Clinton, Trump Election Failures
Ralph Nader – Mark Green
Divest or Face Impeachment: an Open Letter to Donald Trump
Gareth Porter
US Airstrikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Undermine Claim of “Mistake”
Martha Burke
What Trumponomics Means for Women
Ramzy Baroud
Fatah, Hold Your Applause: Palestinian Body Politic Rotten to the Core
Steve Horn
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill Exempting Fracking from Drinking Water Rules
Joe Ware
The Big Shift: Why Banks Need to Stop Investing Our Money Into Fossil Fuels
Juliana Barnet
On the Ground at Standing Rock
Franklin Lamb
Aleppo Update: An Inspiring Return to the Bombed Out National Museum
Steve Kelly
Hidden Harmony: on the Perfection of Forests
December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail