Salmonella egg recalls began with DeCoster

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2010:
More than half a billion eggs laid between April and August
2010 were recalled in mid-August from stores in 14 states due to
salmonella enteritidis outbreaks that afflicted more than 2,000
people. Wright County Eggs, of Galt, Iowa, recalled 380 million
eggs. Another Iowa producer, Hillandale Farms, recalled more than
170 million eggs several days later.
Salmonella typically infects laying hens via rodent droppings
contaminating feed. Not immediately clear was whether the Wright
County and Hillandale outbreaks began from a common source.
Wright County Eggs owner Austin “Jack” DeCoster “earlier this
year pleaded guilty to 10 counts of animal cruelty over his company’s
treatment of chickens,” recalled Emily Friedman of ABC News. “In
June, DeCoster was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in fines and
restitution,” as result of an undercover investigation by Mercy For

Investigators had noted animal care issues at DeCoster
facilities for decades, but previous prosecutions focused on human
rights, occupational safety, and pollution violations carrying
heavier penalties.
Fined $46,250 in 1988 for violations of labor laws at an egg
farm in Maine, DeCoster tightened security and in 1993 was fined
$15,000 for keeping as many as 100 Spanish-speaking workers in
virtual slavery, prevented from leaving and from receiving visits
from priests, social workers, and truant officers. Then-U.S. Labor
Secretary Robert Reich in July 1996 announced that DeCoster would be
fined $3.6 million for continuing violations, including allowing
unsafe working conditions that resuted in disfiguring injuries,
failing to pay workers, and hiring children as young as nine. An
evangelical Christian, DeCoster was also fined for allegedly
preventing workers from attending Catholic mass. Pledging to make
changes, DeCoster replaced an allegedly abusive egg farm manager
with the former manager of one of his 30 Iowa hog farms–who had just
been convicted of duct-taping an employee hand and foot, then
beating him.
DeCoster’s Iowa egg operation was fined $489,950 in October
1996 for 15 serious safety violations. Yet, back in Maine,
DeCoster in 1997 won a reduction of the $3.6 million fine to $2
million, with the balance suspended.
About 100 workers were to divide $21,000 in settlement of
unpaid wage claims. Susan Rayfield of the Portland Press Herald
reported that DeCoster announced the deal with a “free” chicken
banquet for workers, then docked them for the time they spent eating
it. Two weeks before Christmas, DeCoster also evicted employees
from company housing that had been found to be substandard.
Fined repeatedly in both Maine and Iowa during the next
several years for wastewater violations and improperly handling
pesticides, DeCoster in 2002 paid $1.5 million to 11 female workers
at his Iowa facilities in settlement of sexual harassment charges,
including rape. In 2003 DeCoster paid $2.1 million in settlement of
federal charges for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

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