Iowa Farm owners Plead the 5th on Egg Recall!!!!!! 1600 affected!

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by Boyd, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. Boyd

    Boyd Recipient of The Biff Twang

    Mar 14, 2009

    -- The heads of two Iowa egg farms linked to as many as 1,600 salmonella illnesses this summer gave Congress few answers in testimony about the conditions at their farms Wednesday, as one executive would not testify and the other did not answer many of the lawmakers' questions.

    The owner of Wright County Egg, Austin "Jack" DeCoster, said he was "horrified" to learn than his products might have been the cause of the illnesses. The CEO of Hillandale Farms, Orland Bethel, cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and did not answer questions.

    Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg recalled a half-billion eggs in August after tests of products turned up potentially positive for the bacterium Salmonella enteritidis, the strain responsible for the recent outbreak. Wright County Egg supplies feed and chickens to Hillandale.

    Before lawmakers called Bethel to testify, two witnesses recounted how they were sickened by tainted eggs. Sarah Lewis, 30, of Freedom, Calif., said she still has diarrhea, fevers and stress in spite of a trip to the intensive care unit and several weeks of sickness after eating a custard tart at her sister's graduation banquet. Her sister also contracted salmonella poisoning, she said.

    "Knowing how sick we were scares the heck out of us now," Lewis said.

    Carol Loboto, 77, of Littleton, Colo., teared up as she described a loss in stamina and constant indigestion.

    The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said the outbreak paints "a very disturbing picture of egg production in America."

    Members the subcommittee showed photos of dead chickens, insects and piles of manure in hen houses at the two farms.

    A subcommittee investigation found that Wright County Egg had received hundreds of positive results for salmonella in the past two years, including 73 samples that were potentially positive for Salmonella enteritidis.

    Although Bethel declined to testify, another Hillandale employee, Duane Mangskau, said the recall has forced the company to take a hard look at its operations.

    After reading his prepared testimony, DeCoster, 75, had trouble answering some of the committee's questions, trailing off at times, speaking slowly and reading pieces of paper given to him by his lawyer. He told the committee that he was hard of hearing.

    His son Peter, the company's CEO, took most of the questions, though committee members tried to get the older DeCoster to speak.

    While acknowledging that conditions at the farm bother him "a lot," Jack DeCoster did not say much about the company's efforts to prevent salmonella contamination other than that his employees handle their duties "in a certain way."

    "This is a complicated subject. I have to take it piece by piece," the elder DeCoster said.

    Peter DeCoster tangled with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, as Waxman asked about conditions at the farms. DeCoster took issue with Food and Drug Administration findings of filthy conditions at the farms, saying the agency's reports were only partially true. He said the company believes an ingredient purchased from a supplier may be to blame for the salmonella outbreak.

    "It sounds like to me like both of you are refusing to take responsibility for a very poor facility," Waxman said. "For you to come before us and say, 'It's the feed, we have nothing to do with it,' is hard for me to believe and accept on face value."

    Jack DeCoster is no stranger to tangling with the government. He has paid millions of dollars in state and federal fines over at least two decades for health, safety, immigration and environmental violations at his farms.

    "We were horrified to learn that our eggs may have made people sick," DeCoster said in the statement he read to the subcommittee. "We apologize to every one who may have been sickened by eating our eggs. I pray several times each day for all of them and for their improved health."

    Peter DeCoster said the company has made "sweeping biosecurity and food safety changes" following the recall and will remove all chicken flocks that have not been vaccinated against the strain of salmonella linked to the illnesses. Such vaccinations are not required by the government. Onsite inspections and testing also will increase, he said.

    Peter DeCoster also said the FDA inspected the company's feed mill in May and found no deficiencies. That is contrary to previous statements from the agency, which has said it has no inspectional history with the companies. The FDA's deputy commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, said after the hearing that the agency has no records of that inspection.

    Sharfstein urged Congress to pass food safety legislation that would give the agency more power to recall tainted products, require more inspections of food processing facilities and require producers to follow stricter standards for keeping food safe.

    "We need this bill to protect the safety of the food supply," Sharfstein said. It will make a tremendous difference in FDA's ability to prevent future outbreaks."

    The House passed the legislation last year, but it has stalled in the Senate where both parties are blaming each other for slowing its passage. Democrats have said they hope to bring it up, but Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has said he will block its consideration because it isn't paid for.

    Republicans say Democrats could get around Coburn's objections by voting to end debate on the bill, which would require 60 votes. The legislation has strong bipartisan support.

    The partisan bickering in the Senate spilled over into the House hearing, where Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, attempted to read a statement from Coburn denying he is responsible for blocking the bill. Stupak turned off his microphone.

    The specific cause of the egg outbreak is still unknown, and the FDA is still investigating. Sharfstein said it is likely that widespread contamination at the farms caused the outbreak, and it is unlikely that it was just a feed ingredient, though the agency is not ruling anything out at this point.

    No deaths have been reported due to the outbreak. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said this is the largest outbreak of this strain of salmonella since the start of the agency's surveillance of outbreaks in the late 1970s. For every case reported, there may be 30 that are unreported.
  2. TigerLilly

    TigerLilly I failed Chicken Math

    Jul 18, 2010
    Central Florida
    Wow...way to hide behind the 5th ammendment! [​IMG]
  3. TipsyDog

    TipsyDog Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2009
    Aregua, Paraguay
    Do they think we are complete idiots? Unbelievable!
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2010
  4. Ed62

    Ed62 Chillin' With My Peeps

    This is a scary situation. Too bad things like this slip under the rug because of the almighty dollar.

  5. pips&peeps

    pips&peeps There is no "I" in Ameraucana

    Jan 18, 2008
    Newman Lake, WA
    What's even sadder is that the Dept of AG is inserting themselves into the individual State's business. The small farmers that have licenses to sell eggs are now being hounded and instructed that there are new rules to follow......

    But they let these people get away with breaking the rules for months.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2010
  6. PineappleMama

    PineappleMama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Not months, YEARS. They've known this was in their barns for YEARS and did NOTHING, didn't alter their "in a certain way" duties one whit.... they KNEW this would happen and now that it has they're trying to cower.

    And as to them taking immediate action to fix things... is that why days (week plus I think??) later when the FDA's inspectors finally got around to snooping there was STILL a pile of manure taller than they were? Pfft, they knew the risk and didn't change, they now KNOW the risk and still haven't changed, they will not change unless they are forced... and clearly just a couple million in fines isn't enough to educate them.

    It's up to consumers. Don't buy their products, don't buy premade products that use their products... run them out on a (financial) rail. Also be a good lesson to other companies (egg and otherwise) as to just what happens when you betray the American public.
  7. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

    May 25, 2007
    SW Wisconsin
    I'll give you my take on this.

    I watched the congressional subcommittee hearing yesterday and feel these guys are being railroaded.

    Two of the panels interviewed by the subcommittee yesterday were a panel of two women that had been infected by contaminated eggs, the second was the owners and the operation managers for the two farms involved, Wright County Eggs and Hillendale Farms.

    They started with testimony from the two women. Truly tear jerking stories of how these two women almost died and how they continue to have health problems. One subcommittee member noted that the public thinks that these infections are akin to a stomach bug that you can get over in a day or two, but they are fact serious, life threatening infections that can permanently damage your body. One of the women stated that her family kept the cleanest butcher shop in her state and couldn't understand how this egg company had been able to operate in such a "filthy" manner.

    The second panel was the owners of the egg farms and their managers. Wright County Egg manager Peter DeCoster explained that the SE had been traced to contaminated meat and bone meal that was supplied by a third party vendor and contaminated all of their hens and the hens of two barns belonging to Hillendale that they supplied feed to. He explained that they have instituted a testing program to ensure that feed from outside suppliers is SE free in the future. Hillendale has been trying to distance themselves from the situation as their only involvement was that they had two barns that were being managed by Wright County Eggs that were involved in the outbreak. It was Hillendales' owner, an older gentleman, that chose to invoke his fifth amendment right not to speak and to be excused from the hearing. It was my understanding that he did not have much to do with day to day operations and he left his hired operations manager to answer any questions.

    The subcommittee ignored the testimony that this was a problem caused by a third party vendor and chose to focus on the "filthy" conditions that the FDA noted during an inspection. Notably that manure was piled seven to eight feet high in areas and pushing the doors open, that the barns were infested with mice, that there were live chickens in the manure pits, dead chickens in the barns, and thousands of flies. The committee said they wanted answers to why these conditions were present, yet would barely let them explain as they were more interested in finger pointing and dressing down the reps from Wright County Eggs. In between the barrage of comments from the subcommittee Peter DeCoster tried to explain each of the discrepancies. Yes, manure was that deep because that is how the barn is designed, it has deep pit manure storage underneath. They are only cleaned out annually or biannually because disturbing them causes a huge increase in the fly population. They have switched to an annual schedule but are behind in clean out this year because of rainy weather. The FDA noted four doors were budged open. Peter DeCoster explained that it was four doors out of 300 on their barns and one of them was open because workers were inside the manure pit at the time. He noted that their were three hens in the manure pits at the time of inspection, but noted that they have 80,000 birds per facility and occasionally a bird does get out of its cage. He also explained the dead hens. His workers go through the barns each day and remove any dead hens. These hens are moved to the back of the barn where the carcasses were supposed to be stored in drums. He said the only problem that he found with this is that those particular birds, in one of the many barns, didn't make it into the drum. He noted that the FDA counted 31 mice while inspecting hundreds of barns that encompass 60 acres. When answering about why there were thousands of flies in the barns, he stated that this IS a farm and these ARE poultry barns.

    I really didn't find anything out of the ordinary for their operation, but found a tremendous lack of knowledge by the FDA inspectors and the congressional subcommittee.

    I did not find the owner, Jack DeCoster, to be the evil, "Monte Burns" type that the media has portrayed him as. He has been involved in poultry for 60 years and had his share of problems. He explained that in the past they got big, too quickly and were still operating under a small company mindset. He said in the past ten years he has hired numerous experts and auditors to manage farm programs and felt that he had turned the business around, until this problem happened because of a materials from a third party supplier.
  8. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    including 73 samples that were potentially positive for Salmonella enteritidis.

    73 samples that MIGHT have been positive from a farm that produces BILLIONS of eggs per year, and has a flock of over 15 MILLION chickens.

    They recalled 500 MILLION eggs, which about equals 3 months worth of production

    Try to keep things in perspective here​
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  9. Boyd

    Boyd Recipient of The Biff Twang

    Mar 14, 2009
    Quote:73 samples that MIGHT have been positive from a farm that produces BILLIONS of eggs, and has a flock of over 15 MILLION chickens.

    Try to keep things in perspective here

    to keep things in perspective it would help to know how many they took for samples... if they sampled billions of eggs and 73 were infected.. that'd be nothing.. but if they sampled 100 eggs and 73 were positive.. that would be rather bad..

    How big was the sample they took?
  10. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    ... if they sampled billions of eggs and 73 were infected.. that'd be nothing.. but if they sampled 100 eggs and 73 were positive.. that would be rather bad..

    Even under high contamination conditions, only about 1 out of 10,000 eggs will be infected

    Even in areas of high contamination, only one egg in 10,000 will become infected because infected hens shed the bacteria intermittently, according to Patrick McDonough, a bacteriologist at Cornell University's veterinary school.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010

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