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article imageEgg producer knew about salmonella months before egg recall

By Leigh Goessl     Jun 5, 2012 in Food
Information has surfaced the owner of the egg company knew its hens were contaminated with salmonella bacteria months before over half a billion eggs were recalled.
Currently, a civil lawsuit is underway in a Federal Court located in California. NuCal Foods, a California cooperative that bought tainted eggs, is suing Jack DeCoster and his network of egg companies that sold the contaminated eggs.
Jack DeCoster owned the farms that produced eggs that sickened thousands of Americans with salmonella enteritidis poisoning. He is now out of the egg business.
During court proceedings it came out that DeCoster allegedly knew the hens had been contaminated. A laboratory that had done testing for the company was subpoenaed by NuCal. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, ISU's Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory shared records that testing found salmonella in manure at several Iowa-laying plants, and also in the internal organs of the hens, which was reported to the company four months before the Aug. 2010 recall.
Reportedly, the egg company had requested the tests. In Jan. 2010 the lab began collecting samples from the DeCoster farms. ISU gave the results directly to the egg company in April.
It also came out that the egg company had been seeing a high mortality rate of its hens in some of its plants. Apparently, DeCoster's company had asked for additional testing to find out what was happening with the birds. On May 1, ISU scientist Darrell Trampel concluded the pathogen was "almost certainly " in the eggs, reported Food Safety News. These findings were reported to a DeCoster manager on May 1, 2010.
Fast-forward to today. The lab says it "had no legal or ethical obligation to alert regulators or consumers." The company that conducted the tests say to have done so would have violated confidentiality agreements to the food producer.
"Our role is to provide a third-party quality assured diagnostic service, and it's up to the client to interpret the information," said Lab operations director Rodger Main, whose 125-employee lab receives $3.2 million in Iowa tax dollars. The lab conducts approximately 1 million tests annually.
In the civil lawsuit, the federal grand jury is examining whether or not the egg company intentionally misled the public by selling tainted eggs as "safe." The NuCal lawsuit contends the company knew they were selling tainted eggs and hid the disgusting conditions at the farms, and are arguing the company did not test eggs or decontaminate its facilities between May and August after the salmonella had been found.
There is also a potential criminal investigation that is targeting DeCoster, his son Peter and CFO Patsy Larson.
Additionally, today the Associated Press reports the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today the terms of its settlement with Quality Egg, a DeCoster company, for a sexual harassment case involving two female employees.
More about wright county egg, egg recalls, egg recall, Hillandale Farms, Jack DeCoster
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