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Egg Hearing Rescheduled, DeCoster to Testify

The Congressional panel investigating the recent recall of 550 million eggs tied to a multistate Salmonella outbreak has moved its food safety hearing, originally planned for today, to next week.

Jack DeCoster, owner of Wright County Egg, the company at the center of the outbreak, now linked to over 1,500 illnesses in almost two dozen states, will testify at the hearing. A company spokeswoman told the Des Moines Register that DeCoster will fully cooperate with lawmakers, shutting down speculation that he might plead the Fifth, as Stewart Parnell, owner of the Peanut Corporation of America, did at a similar hearing in early 2009.

Parnell refused to answer any questions before the same House Energy and Commerce subcommittee after his operation was implicated in a nationwide recall of thousands of Salmonella-contaminated peanut products tied to an outbreak that sickened hundreds and killed 9.

DeCoster likely faces a tough round of questioning from the panel. In the days following the high profile recall, dozens of media outlets have reported DeCoster’s long history of violating health, safety, animal cruelty, and environmental laws.

In its initial inspection of DeCoster’s Iowa egg operation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also found many of DeCoster’s hen houses to be filthy and in violation of recently-enacted egg regulations.

The egg recall hearing, now scheduled for Tuesday Sept. 21 at 11 am EST, will also include testimony from Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at FDA, and Orlando Bethel, president of Hillandale Farms of Iowa, which recalled 170 million of the 550 million total eggs recalled in August. 

The FDA believes the Salmonella contamination at the two farms is linked, but the agency has not made a determination on the exact link. Shared feed and pallets are among the likely possibilities. The agency reported finding rodents and other biosecurity problems, as well as Salmonella bacteria at both operations.      

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