August 13, 2010: Wright County Egg initiates a voluntary recall of millions of eggs due to implication in a major national Salmonella enteritidis outbreak that had already caused over one thousand confirmed illnesses. The CDC indicated that these additional illnesses represented an approximate four-fold increase in the number of Salmonella enteritidis illnesses as compared to the same period last year.
August 17, 2010: California Department of Public Health announces that 266 California residents had been sickened by the outbreak strain of Salmonella enteritidis during the exposure period for the outbreak. This represented only California’s known cases at the time. Multiplied by 38.6, that’s many thousands of sick Californians alone.
August 17, 2010: Marler Clark files first lawsuit against Wright County Egg, alleging negligence and strict product liability, on behalf of a Wisconsin resident.
August 18, 2010: Wright County Egg recalls many more millions of eggs dating back to April 2010. The recall expansion was due to the obvious widespread nature of contamination at Wright County Egg facilities. To date, Wright County Egg had recalled approximately 380 million eggs.
August 20, 2010: Multiple news outlets begin reporting on Jack DeCoster’s checkered past. Among the notable problems that Mr. DeCoster, and officials within his network of companies, have run into are sexual harassment claims, other working condition claims, animal cruelty allegations, and environmental problems at DeCoster’s chicken and hog farms. Perhaps the most telling revelation, however, was that, in 2000, the state of Iowa designated Mr. DeCoster a “habitual violator” of state environmental laws.
August 20, 2010: Hillandale Farms recalls 170 million eggs. The connection to Wright County egg is presumed, but unclear. Total number of eggs recalled due to potential contamination by Salmonella enteritidis: over half a billion.
August 20, 2010: U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told CNN that "There’s no question these farms involved in the recall were not operating with the standards of practice that we consider responsible. It’s very, very important that those standards be cleaned up."
August 22, 2010: An AP article by Mary Clare Jalonick made clear the link between Hillandale and Wright County Egg, reporting that both businesses "share suppliers of chickens and feed as well as ties to an Iowa business routinely cited for violating state and federal law." The company Quality Egg supplies young chickens and feed to both Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. The two share other suppliers, said Jewanna Porter, a spokeswoman for the egg industry, but she did not name them.
August 26, 2010: The FDA announces that feed given to chickens at both Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg could be the source of the Salmonella bacteria involved in the outbreak. CNN.com reported: Testing at two Wright County Egg farms in Iowa confirmed the presence of Salmonella in the food mill and at least two locations, said Sherri McGarry of the Food and Drug Administration. She said investigators are still drawing samples at Hillandale Farms.
August 30, 2010: With the investigation ongoing, FDA releases its 483 Inspection Report detailing findings of gross violations of health and safety standards in egg production at Wright County Egg.
- Chicken manure located in the manure pits below the egg laying operations was observed to be approximately 4 feet high to 8 feet high at [multiple]locations. The outside access doors to the manure pits at these locations had been pushed out by the weight of the manure, leaving open access to wildlife or domesticated animals.
- Un-baited, unsealed holes appearing to be rodent burrows located along the second floor baseboards were observed.
- Dark liquid which appeared to be manure was observed seeping through the concrete foundation to the outside of the laying houses at [multiple] locations.
- Standing water approximately 3 inches deep was observed at the southeast corner of the manure pit located inside Layer 1 – House 13.
- Un-caged birds (chickens having escaped) were observed in the egg laying operations in contact with the egg laying birds at Layer 3 – Houses 9 and 16. The un-caged birds were using the manure, which was approximately 8 feet high, to access the egg laying area.
- Layer 3 – House 11, the house entrance door to access both House 11 and 12 was blocked with excessive amounts of manure in the manure pits.
- There were between 2 to 5 live mice observed inside the egg laying Houses 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 14.
- Live and dead flies too numerous to count were observed at [multiple] locations inside the egg laying houses. The live flies were on and around egg belts, feed, shell eggs and walkways in the different sections of each egg laying area. In addition, live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed on the manure pit floor located in Layer 2 – House 7.
August 31, 2010: Marler Clark files fourth Salmonella lawsuit against Wright County Egg on behalf of a California woman sickened in the outbreak.
September 4, 2010: Former employees of Wright County Egg begin to speak out about conditions at the egg production facility. Among the concerning violations revealed during CBS’s “The Early Show” on September 4, 2010:
- repacking old eggs as fresh
- live cats, live mice, dead mice, chicken bones, live chickens, dead chickens
- the company routinely took eggs returned by grocery stores and repackaged them as fresh
September 9, 2010: Marler Clark files a petition in Iowa Federal Court for entrance to Wright County Egg to conduct a "Rule 34 Inspection." A ‘Rule 34’ inspection – named for its position in the civil code – is a request for entry into a facility for purposes of inspection and testing. On behalf of one of its clients, Marler Clark requested entry to the Wright County Egg facility to inspect, document, and conduct microbiological testing.
September 9, 2010: CDC’s “case-count” rises to 1,519 people sickened in the Salmonella enteritidis outbreak linked to Wright County Egg.
September 9, 2010: Jens Manuel Krogstad and Phil Brasher at the Des Moines Register publish another article on the conditions at Wright County Egg during the egg outbreak. The reports on which the article was based came from past and present workers at the company:
- Dozens of chickens died daily, their bodies lying undiscovered in cages for days, and perhaps weeks, at a time, they said. "There’s always been mice," former worker Lucas Garcias said through an interpreter. "I saw maggots and sometimes mice on the conveyor belt." NOTE: the presence of rodents and other vermin is to be expected in henhouse operations, but this is no excuse for the apparent level of infestation at Wright County Egg. FURTHER NOTE: the FDA’s Egg Rule sets forth specific measures to take for control of vermin infestation.
- Garcias, a former Dominican employee at Wright County Egg who worked there for a decade before the outbreak said he always knew when the doors to the hen houses were open because ammonia wafted into his building and made his eyes water. According to the Des Moines Register article, "News of the salmonella outbreak did not come as a shock, he said. "I wasn’t surprised, because they’re not careful," he said through an interpreter. "They could do more."
- Hundreds of mice killed by poison can fill about 50 cage traps in each hen house several times a week, he said. About four months ago, he said he noticed workers emptying the cages once a week or less. "Lately, there have been a lot of mice," another worker said through an interpreter. "It’s been kind of ignored. But now it’s better. Ever since it came out that there was disease, they started working on it."
- Current workers described a daily routine that starts at 6:30 a.m. by checking the chicken’s drinking water. They then toss dead chickens into bins about as tall as their chests. Workers estimate they find as many as 20 dead chickens per hen house daily, though that number can triple on hot summer days. Sometimes days go by before a decomposing chicken is discovered, the workers said. Once a week, workers said they inspect the cages with flashlights to look for chickens they may have missed. Trampel, the ISU poultry veterinarian, said a 0.1 percent mortality rate for caged laying hens is typical. Dead chickens should be picked up every day, he said. Several former employees said deceased chickens sometimes went undiscovered for a week or more. "They’d leave them there for weeks," Jorge Santiago said through an interpreter.
September 14, 2010: Jack DeCoster receives a letter from Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, detailing reports that Wright County Egg had generated 426 positive environmental and product samples for Salmonella from 2008 to 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 initiated its recall.
September 21, 2010: The much anticipated House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on the Wright County Egg outbreak . . . the chance for Jack DeCoster to "clear the air," and give his company’s version of events leading up to this monumental outbreak and recall.