The committee is inviting Austin “Jack” DeCoster, the owner of Wright County Egg, and Orland Bethel, the owner of Hillandale Farms, to testify. The panel is investigating the recall and has written both farms, asking about company operations, communications with the government and what they knew and when.
The panel has also written the FDA, which oversees the safety of shell eggs, and the Agriculture Department, which oversees other egg products and animal disease. The committee asked for records of inspections and past communications with the two farms, along with other documents. The FDA has said it has “no inspectional history” with the two farms.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who heads the spending committee that oversees the FDA and USDA, has also written letters to the two agencies.
DeCoster, who has paid millions of dollars in fines over the last 20 years for health, safety, immigration and environmental violations, has not responded to interview requests.
A worker at his office’s headquarters near Galt, Iowa, on Wednesday said he wasn’t available, and in his home in Clarion, Iowa, on Wednesday, his wife, Patricia, also said he was not around. She said the last few weeks “have been quite a time for us” but declined further comment.
The number of illnesses, which can be life-threatening, especially to those with weakened immune systems, is expected to increase. No deaths have been reported due to this outbreak.
CDC epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Braden said this is the largest outbreak of this strain of salmonella since the start of the agency’s surveillance of outbreaks in the late 1970s. The next largest was an outbreak due to raw eggs in ice cream in the 1990s that caused more than 700 illnesses.
Thoroughly cooking eggs can kill the bacteria. But health officials are recommending people throw away or return the recalled eggs.
Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.