An astounding report today from the Wall Street Journal reveals that Wright County Egg, responsible for at least 1,500 Salmonella illnesses nationwide and the recall of approximately 380 million eggs, was aware of repeated positive tests for Salmonella at its facility well before the recall was announced. The company’s owner, Jack DeCoster, was sent a letter by the House Energy and Commerce Committee (Chairman Henry Waxman, of California) that included numerous allegations.
The alarming statements include:
- records show Wright County Egg received 426 positive results for salmonella between 2008 and 2010.
- the positive results found over the last two years included 73 samples that were potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis, the strain responsible for the recent outbreak.
- the company received as many as 67 positive results this year alone. That includes one positive result for Salmonella Enteritidis on July 26, less than three weeks before the company recalled the eggs.
Beyond this, it appears that DeCoster did not inform the committee of the positive results even when asked by the panel in August.
At first glance, the apparent complete disregard for public safety is shocking. Sadly, the behavior may be less shocking in view of what little action has been taken against those who have acted similarly before. It was less than two years ago that similar accusations were made against Stewart Parnell, former President of the Peanut Corporation of America. It was alleged that Mr. Parnell and PCA knew of Salmonella in its product before "turning it loose," leading to over 700 confirmed illnesses and contributing to 9 deaths. Still, no criminal action has been taken against Mr. Parnell.
It seems unlikely we will see change before individuals who make these decisions are held accountable.