US egg recall boss ‘prayed for salmonella sufferers’

The owner of the Iowa egg farm at the centre of a salmonella outbreak which saw 1500 people fall ill and more than half a billion eggs recalled, has faced a government inquiry in the USA.

“We were horrified to learn our eggs might have made people sick. I’ve prayed several times a day for all these people for improved health,” Austin “Jack” DeCoster from Wright County Egg told the inquiry, the Washington Post reported.

“While we were big, but still acting like we were small, we got into trouble with government requirements several times.”

But members of the US House of Representatives had little sympathy for Mr DeCoster who they said has clashed with food safety authorities across the USA during his career in egg production.

“You have a history of over 30 years of salmonella in eggs and a pretty sordid record. It’s hard for me to reconcile your words with the record. Your facilities were not clean, they were not sanitary. They were filthy. You are a habitual violator of safety standards.” Representative Henry A Waxman, a California Democrat and chairman of the committee, told Mr DeCoster.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered appalling conditions on one of the farms, including dead hens and mice, manure bulging out of sheds, wild birds living in feed stores and salmonella in chicken feed from a mill.

Mr DeCoster has blamed a supplier of meat and bonemeal for the salmonella contamination in the feed and the subsequent infection of his birds and those at nearby Hillandale Farms, which bought feed from Wright County Egg.

The FDA is conducting criminal investigations into both farms, with Wright County Eggs being sued by a number of people who fell ill with salmonella after eating products made from their eggs.

The house committee hearings continue.

(Pictured: Dead hens found piled up in laying sheds at Wright County Egg. Source: FDA)