Wright County Egg, the livestock industry giant that’s at the center of the multistate Salmonella outbreak, which now includes Washington State, has a sordid history of environmental, immigration, and labor violations.
The egg recall initially announced last week grew yesterday to 380 million eggs. No deaths have been reported, but hundreds of people have been sickened in at least three states.
Investigations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, numerous state health departments, and the Food and Drug Administration are continuing.
Wright County Egg, in Galt, Iowa, is part of the DeCoster family agribusiness operations. The company shipped the contaminated eggs to wholesalers, distribution centers, and food service companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The companies then distributed the eggs nationwide.
Seattle lawyer Bill Marler, whose firm specializes in food poisonings, has brought a lawsuit against Wright County Egg for allegedly causing the salmonella poisoning of a Wisconsin woman. A dozen more lawsuits linked to the outbreak are in process.
The Des Moines Register reported on Thursday that the DeCoster operations have had several violations in recent years:
– Company founder Austin Jackson DeCoster pleaded guilty to federal immigration charges in 2003 and paid a record $2.1 million in penalties.
– The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission imposed a $1.5 million penalty in 2002 for mistreatment of female workers, including charges of rape and sexual harassment.
– The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that DeCoster, a repeat violator of state environmental laws, could finance, but not build, hog confinement operations for his son, Peter DeCoster, who is now closely involved with the Wright County egg operations.
– Earlier this year, the Austin Jackson DeCoster paid a fine to settle state animal cruelty charges against his egg operations in Maine.
Sources: Des Moines Register, Associated Press