The father and son whose Iowa operations are at the center of a nationwide egg recall are offering a public apology today. Jack DeCoster and his son, Peter, are set to testify soon before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In a prepared statement of his testimony released to the media, Jack DeCoster said he accepted responsibility for the “mistakes” in DeCoster farm operations — and he plans to “apologize to everyone who may have been sickened” with salmonella.
Over half a billion eggs were recalled after hundreds of Americans became ill after eating eggs. California officials traced the source of the salmonella to the DeCosters’ operations and Congressman Henry Waxman of California addressed the men moments ago.
“We’re going to have some tough questions today for Jack DeCoster, the CEO of the Wright County Egg, and Orland Bethel, the CEO of Hillandale Farms,” Waxman said. “But I do want to thank them for appearing here voluntarily and cooperating with our committee’s investigation.”
The DeCoster’s prepared testimony indicates they will argue an additive the DeCosters bought from an outside supplier and incorporated in the feed they ground at the facility is the source of the salmonella contamination. A Food and Drug Administration official is also set to testify. The FDA has cited several sources, in addition to the feed, as possible causes of the salmonella outbreak. Waxman, the California congressman who spoke in the committee room moments ago, argued the FDA lacks the authority to fully investigate.
“The FDA cannot get information from these farms. They don’t have the ability to subpeona. They have to be given to them voluntarily…They have to try to issue a warrant to get information,” Waxman said. “There’s no obligation by these farms to report to the FDA even when they know there’s a food safety problem.”
Waxman said that’s why the food safety bill that cleared the House earlier this year must be passed, as it gives the federal agency more powers when there’s an outbreak of food-borne illness.
Victims of the salmonella outbreak were invited to testify first. A woman from Colorado said she went into “septic shock” that required “aggressive intervention” in the hospital.
“I was quite sick,” said Carol Lobato. “…I could not even get out of bed without help.”
Lobato, who grew up on an Iowa farm, said her stain of salmonella was “the exact DNA match” to the salmonella found at Wright County Egg. She described the conditions inside the facility.
“Our farm never looked the way these two farms looked,” Lobato told the House committee. “….We kept our farm clean…and did things the correct way.”