Jack DeCoster, Egg Mogul and Salmonella Offender, Finally Apologizes

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The New York Times reports that Jack DeCoster, never one to admit (or do anything about) wrongdoing at his massive egg farms, has finally told Congress that his business "got big quite a while before we stopped acting like we were small." Here at The Atlantic's Food Channel, Joe Fassler has done an impressive job writing about the entrepreneur who brought us August's Salmonella outbreak—with original reporting from both Iowa and Maine, where DeCoster's first farms led to little-known decades of health and labor violations—and it's nice to see a bad egg apologize for once:

WASHINGTON -- An Iowa egg producer at the center of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella apologized to a Congressional panel on Wednesday and admitted that his family operation "got big quite a while before we stopped acting like we were small."

"What I mean by that is we were big before we started adopting sophisticated procedures to be sure we met all of the government requirements," the egg producer, Austin J. DeCoster, said in testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. He is the founder of an egg empire that has been linked over three decades to multiple deadly outbreaks of salmonella poisoning in many states.

Mr. DeCoster's company, Wright County Egg, and another company, Hillandale Farms, recalled more than 500 million eggs last month after health officials traced salmonella bacteria that sickened more than 1,500 people to those companies.

A subsequent inspection by the Food and Drug Administration found that the barns of the egg producers were infested with flies, maggots and rodents, and had overflowing manure pits. Records unearthed by Congressional investigators showed that tests of Wright County Egg barns had shown the presence of toxic salmonella bacteria for years prior to the outbreak.

"We were horrified to learn that our eggs may have made people sick," Mr. DeCoster, who is known as Jack, said in a shaky voice. "We apologize to everyone who may have been sickened by eating our eggs."

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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