After Salmonella outbreak, egg mogul is leaving the industry

From The Austin Statesman:  http://www.statesman.com/life/health-medical/after-outbreak-egg-mogul-is-leaving-the-industry-1985389.html

By RYAN J. FOLEY
The Associated Press
Monday, Nov. 21, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A ruthless businessman who built one of the nation’s largest egg production operations from scratch even as he racked up environmental and labor violations is getting out of the business in disgrace after one scandal was too much to overcome: a nationwide salmonella outbreak caused by his products.

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 that produced salmonella-tainted eggs that sickened an estimated 1,900 people and led to a recall of 550 million eggs. Federal inspectors later discovered filthy conditions at the farms, including dead rodents and towers of manure.

Steve Boomsma, chief operating officer for Centrum Valley Farms in Alden, Iowa, said in a telephone interview Monday his firm had signed a nine-year lease with an option to purchase six DeCoster operations in Iowa, including the Wright County Egg farms responsible for the outbreak. A division of Minnesota-based Land O’ Lakes announced earlier this month it is taking over DeCoster’s Maine egg farms. And Boomsma said a deal could be announced this week involving Iowa investors’ takeover of DeCoster’s egg operations in Ohio.

The salmonella outbreak caused big retailers like Wal-Mart to drop DeCoster products, a Congressional hearing where DeCoster struggled to defend his record, and a bitter legal feud with DeCoster’s longtime top associate, John Glessner, in which each is accusing the other of mismanagement. The DeCosters recently reached financial settlements with about 40 people who were sickened during the outbreak, and attorneys involved in the litigation say they are seeking compensation for more than 100 others.

“While we are committed to working to address outstanding issues related to the outbreak, it is important to note we no longer operate any of the farms involved and are no longer in the business of egg production,” the DeCoster family said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

Continue reading at:  http://www.statesman.com/life/health-medical/after-outbreak-egg-mogul-is-leaving-the-industry-1985389.htmlBy RYAN J. FOLEY

 

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