August 20, 2010

Yes, who ever could have guessed that conditions in this firm could lead to salmonella poisoning? What does it take to get the federal government to drop the hammer on these dirty, unsafe food food processors? Daniel DeGroot from Open Left has the details on the egg recall:

What does it take to get shut down in America? 380 million eggs have been recalled due to salmonella contamination. The contamination has been traced to a factory farm in Galt, Iowa called "Wright County Egg." Poking around, it turns out the farm is owned by the DeCoster family, a father-son industrial farm duo with a lengthy track record of environmental, labour, cruelty, safety andimmigration violations with plenty of lawsuits from Maine to Iowa. No way I can quote it all, but some highlights:

In 1980, the DeCoster operation was charged with employing five 11-year-olds and a 9-year-old by the Labor department.

Prior to 1993: Even before he built his first large-scale Iowa pig farming operation, Austin J. "Jack" DeCoster had already drawn the serious attention of environmental and labor law enforcement authorities. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection had brought a 14-count action against him for activities that were polluting both air and water. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had investigated DeCoster in connection with farm workers' reports that they had been exposed to lethal asbestos in DeCoster chicken houses. There had also been a federal suit brought against DeCoster under the Migrant Agricultural Workers Protection Act, based on workers' reports of unfit housing, and of illegal threats and harassment ongoing at DeCoster plants.

E-Coli conservativism continues:

In 1996, then-Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich proposed more than $3.6 million in penalties against DeCoster for numerous alleged egregious and willful violations of health and safety and wage and hour laws. In May 1997, the company settled the case by paying $2 million, agreeing to pay full restitution of back wages owed to workers and agreeing to third-party monitoring.

[...] "The conditions at this migrant farm site are as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we have seen," Reich said at the time. "Fear and intimidation kept these workers in this unsafe, unhealthy atmosphere and living in totally unsanitary conditions."

Officials had been tipped off by an undercover video shot by a humane investigator for Mercy For Animals depicting live hens suffocating in garbage cans, twirled by their necks in incomplete euthanasia, kicked into manure pits to drown and hanging by their feet over conveyer belts. Footage even shows the investigator, hired as an employee, pointing out the suffering animals to DeCoster's son Jay who says to disregard it.

In 1996, federal investigators found DeCoster workers living in rat and cockroach infested housing and OSHA found their drinking water contaminated with faeces. Yum.

No one could have predicted a quality business like this would suffer salmonella contamination. Maybe someone in HHS, FDA, Ag or the DoJ could do something. Maybe all of them. The FDA did institute recent new egg safety rules, which is good, but my issue relates more to how an operation like this can continue to be in business at all?

Because it's capitalism, son, and owners have a God-given right to shave as many edges as they can with food safety, figuring that the occasional fine or lawsuit is well worth the savings!

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