Egg farmer linked to recall faces grilling

Brown eggs sit in a carton in San Rafael, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: In Washington today, Jack DeCoster will tell a Congressional committee he was horrified to learn eggs from his facilities may have made thousands of people sick. As many as 1,600 people were contaminated with salmonella. DeCoster blames an outside supplier for selling his company a tainted ingredient. But his farm operations have a long history controversy.

Iowa Public Radio's Kathleen Masterson
has this profile.


KATHLEEN MASTERSON: Jack DeCoster grew up in abject poverty in Turner, Maine, says his childhood friend and neighbor Ralph Caldwell. Caldwell says DeCoster's father died when he was 12 or 13, and he took over running the small poultry operation to support his family.

RALPH CADLWELL: He came up the hard way by working hard and taking god-awful chances.

By the time DeCoster graduated from high school, he'd grown the operation from 200 hens to nearly 10,000. As his business expanded, DeCoster donated money to build a Baptist church in his hometown and supported other community projects in Iowa.

CALDWELL: He's a born-again Baptist, but that don't count on Monday though. That counts on Sunday. On Monday he's a ruthless businessman.

The state of Iowa classified DeCoster as a "habitual violator" of environmental regulations in 2000. He was banned from expanding his farms or starting new ones for five years, but he got around this by acquiring permits using other associates' names.

At today's Congressional hearing, the subcommittee has requested that DeCoster present inspection records for his facilities and documentation of past violations.

In Ames, Iowa, I'm Kathleen Masterson for Marketplace.

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