Just when you think the Jack DeCoster egg empire couldn't look more rotten. . . well, this just in:
Court records show managers at one of DeCoster's Iowa egg farms knew its hens were "almost certainly" laying contaminated eggs months before one of the nation's largest outbreaks of food-borne illness.
An Iowa State University scientist found the internal organs of chickens, which were dying at an unusually high rate, were loaded with salmonella well before an outbreak of poisoning that sickened more than 1,000 people in 2010.
DeCoster's Turner operation was not involved in the outbreak and no eggs from that plant were recalled. The Turner plant has, however, been linked in the past to animal abuse and labor law violations.
The tests recently came to light as part of a lawsuit filed by a California company that bought and then sold contaminated DeCoster eggs.
Meanwhile, a federal grand jury is looking into whether company executives misled consumers by continuing to sell the eggs after being told they were almost certainly contaminated.
Back in September of 2010 Jack DeCoster told a congressional committee that he was "horrified" to learn his eggs had sickened about 1,300 people, explaining that his company had become "big" while operating like they were "small."
Here's a more likely explanation: The profits were big and concern for public health small.
DeCoster hired people who would go to any lengths — including risking the public's health — to make sure profits were maximized.
The recent evidence shows mangers knew the eggs were bad and went right on shipping them to consumers.
An Associated Press profile of DeCoster once described him as a born-again Christian who ministers to jail inmates and donates money to church and community projects, including those in Turner.
Which is very hard to square with DeCoster's 30-year history of labor law violations, sanitation problems, animal abuse and record of misdeeds spread over at least three states.
When it comes to running his business, DeCoster has always put profits ahead of scripture.
merit a complaint
As long as we're on a food-borne pathogen rant, here's a warning for all consumers: If the water in a restaurant washroom isn't warm enough for hand washing, complain.
If that doesn't work, call the health department.
Our sister publication, The Portland Forecaster, reported last week that nine of 14 chain restaurants had restroom sink water that was below state standards of 110 degrees.
One restaurant, the Wendy's in Brunswick, had the lowest temperature, 63 degrees.
It does seem that some restaurants have turned down the water temperature recently to save money.
Why is this important?
Simple: Thorough hand-washing "minimizing the chance of fecal matter finding its way into your mouth," Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling wrote.
Or, perhaps, some employee's fecal matter finding its way onto your hamburger bun.
Dr. Stephen Sears, Maine's state epidemiologist, told Hongoltz-Hetling, "It's not pleasant to think about, but it happens a lot."
We believe it.
Soap works better when water is warm and people spend more time washing their hands.
So, if the water feels much cooler than you use at home, complain.
And while you're at it, what's up with the hand blowers that blow cold air? Useless.
Ask for a bundle of napkins to make that point.