By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 23, 2010; A02
A key member of Congress plans to send a letter to federal regulators Monday seeking a detailed explanation of what they knew about the activities of an Iowa egg producer at the center of a salmonella outbreak and massive egg recall.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration and Agriculture Department about Austin "Jack" DeCoster, who owns Wright County Egg. DeLauro chairs the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee.
Last week, Wright County Egg recalled 380 million eggs distributed nationwide. A federal investigation into 26 outbreaks of salmonella enteritidis found that 15 pointed to Wright County Egg. The DeCoster family also has close ties to Hillandale Farms of Iowa, which on Friday recalled 170 million eggs distributed to 14 states in the Midwest and West
At least 1,200 cases of salmonella from egg consumption have been reported in at least 10 states.
DeLauro's questions are aimed at getting more information about how much federal regulators knew about DeCoster's poor compliance record and what steps were taken to ensure safety at DeCoster's facilities.
In the past 20 years, the DeCoster family operation, one of the 10 largest egg producers in the country, has withstood a string of reprimands, penalties and complaints about its performance.
The FDA oversees inspections of shell eggs, and the Agriculture Department is in charge of inspecting other egg products.