10 “Holy Shit” Things About the Egg Recall

As they say, this story has legs. First, the biggest egg recall in human history, from two Iowa farms. Then, revelations that the guy in charge of one of the farms and closely tied to the other, Austin "Jack" DeCoster, had a history of violations and lawsuits. Here's a primer on the most shocking stuff about the egg recall and the controversial farming family behind it.

1. Accidents. In the 1970s, so many teenagers were getting in accidents working at DeCoster Maine egg farms that the state had to revamp its child labor laws. "Kids were always being hurt there," said James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general. (From the Chicago Tribune)

2. Poisonings. DeCoster opened up shop in Maryland shortly thereafter, with more huge egg operations. But then some people got sick, including 11 who died from salmonella poisoning in a New York hospital that imported his eggs. In 1988 New York banned DeCoster's eggs from the state. (From the Washington Post)

3. Pollution. Wooed by Wright County officials in the 1980s, DeCoster moved into Iowa, where he has grown his stock to 7.5 million chickens and 27,000 hogs. The office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller labeled DeCoster as the state’s first “habitual violator” of state environmental laws. Manure from DeCoster's farms polluted Iowa's water at least 10 times between 1993 and 2000. (From the Iowa Independent)

4. Alleged rapes. Female workers claim they were raped or sexually harassed at DeCoster's Iowa egg farms by their supervisors. The suit was settled for $1.5 million, in 2002. DeCoster "is kind of an enigma," said Karen Wolf, who represented workers in a discrimination case. (From the Chicago Tribune)

5. Illegals. In 2003, DeCoster was busted for employing illegal aliens. (From the Atlantic)

6. Corpses. A neighbor observed the company frequently dumped hog "corpses out into the open to be picked up by whoever runs the rendering plant up in Belmond [Iowa]." (From the Atlantic)

7. Politics. Since 1999 Jack DeCoster and family have made more than $500,000 in political contributions—all of it to Democrats, and much of it to Iowa Democrats. (From the Iowa Independent)

8. Neglect. Despite his history, the FDA never inspected DeCoster's Iowa facilities until three weeks ago. (From the Chicago Tribune)

9. Leaking manure. One FDA report "describes Wright County Egg as filthy, rat and fly-infested and so overflowing with manure that in several cases doors could not be closed. The other, Hillandale Farms, had multiple unsealed rodent holes into its henhouses, liquid manure leaking from a manure pit and as many as 50 escaped hens tracking manure into the henhouse." (From USA Today)

10. You're next. The FDA now plans to inspect all the really big egg producers in the country. It will give itself 15 months to do so, though, so consider that timeframe next time you order a Caesar salad at the airport. (From the Associated Press)