Does DeCoster Egg Farms Have (Salmonella-Tainted) Egg on Its Face Conscience?


A fascinating and deeply disturbing article in today's New York Times: DeCoster Egg Farms, the egg "empire" founded by Austin J. DeCoster that is at the center of the recent salmonella outbreak in eggs, has played a key role in the spread of salmonella over the past two decades.

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.

The larger problem is suggested by the final sentence of the above paragraph. DeCoster Egg Farms (and, one presumes, other egg farms) are subject to the regulations (or lack thereof) of different states rather than one standard.

For example, Iowa, where Mr. DeCoster has five farms tied to the current outbreak, required no testing.

And the federal government, at times under pressure from Congress and the industry to limit regulation, spent two decades debating national egg safety standards. New rules finally went into effect in July -- too late to prevent the current round of illness.

Austin J. DeCoster is slated to testify before Congress today. In a prepared statement, he apologizes for the outbreak.