An Iowa businessman who built one of the nation's largest egg production operations is getting out of the industry after its farms were found responsible for a nationwide salmonella outbreak.
Austin "Jack" DeCoster and his son, Peter, said in a statement they have given up control of egg operations in Iowa, Maine and Ohio, including the farms with filthy conditions that produced salmonella-tainted eggs that sickened about 1,900 people last year.
In September 2010, DeCoster blamed chicken feed from an outside supplier for the contamination. However, the FDA found filthy conditions at his facility. Caroline Smith DeWall with the Center for Science in the Public Interest described it this way: "They had manure piles that were old enough that maggots were forming. They had rat holes allowing rats to enter the facilities."
His son Peter DeCoster claimed the building was designed to have manure pits. The two were apologetic for the outbreak. During the outbreak, Jack DeCsoter said, “I pray several times each day for all of them (those who were poisoned) and for their improved health.”
DeCoster had been in trouble before the outbreak of salmonella. The U.S. Labor Secretary called his operation in Maine a “sweatshop”. His Wright County Egg operation in Iowa tested positive for salmonella 426 times over a two year period.
Centrum Valley Farms chief operating officer Steve Boomsma said Monday his firm has signed a lease with an option to purchase DeCoster operations in Iowa. A division of Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes announced this month it is taking over DeCoster's Maine egg farms. And Boomsma said there is a deal in the works involving DeCoster's egg operations in Ohio.