Nightly News | September 22, 2010
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: For years a lot of us bought them without thinking much about them, but then you tend to think about them when cases of salmonella start galloping across the country, as they just did. And so today in Washington they heard testimony from two of the largest egg producers in this country. Millions of people have purchased their brands without knowing it and still will. The problem is, 1600 people got sick recently in 22 out of 50 states . There could be many more who passed it off as a passing bug. Half a billion eggs were recalled. Today we got a glimpse, for better or worse , into these two big producers. Our own Tom Costello starts us off from Washington . He's in a store there tonight. Tom , good evening.
TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hi, Brian. Good evening. In fact, most grocery stores nationwide, all grocery stores , should be free of those bad eggs . And today the Iowa farm at the center of this mess suggested that a third provider, a feed supplier, may be responsible for the salmonella that has led to the recall of half a billion eggs. On Capitol Hill today, the man at the center of the biggest salmonella egg recall ever said he's personally sorry for the outbreak.
Mr. AUSTIN "JACK" DECOSTER ([shown on screen] Wright County Egg Owner): We apologize to everyone who may have been sickened by eating our eggs.
COSTELLO: For 30 years, records show Austin "Jack" DeCoster 's egg farms have run afoul of health, environmental and animal cruelty laws in several states, paying millions of dollars in fines. Today Congress released photos taken by FDA inspectors inside DeCoster 's Wright County Egg Farm in Iowa after the recall of half a billion eggs was already under way. The photos showed dead hens, dead mice and barns bursting with chicken manure piled eight feet high, even as the company insisted it takes health and sanitation seriously.
Representative HENRY WAXMAN (Democrat, California): It sounds like, to me, that both of you are refusing to take responsibility for a very poor facility.
Mr. DeCOSTER: This is a very big operation. We have a certain way we go about running it.
COSTELLO: Meanwhile, the man who runs Hillandale Farms , also involved in the recall, today invoked his constitutional right to remain silent .
Mr. ORLAND BETHEL (Hillandale Farms CEO): I respective -- I respectfully decline to answer the question.
COSTELLO: Investigators estimate 1600 people and perhaps thousands more have been sickened nationwide.
Ms. SARAH LEWIS (Salmonella Victim): I was so dehydrated that they could not find a vein to insert an IV in.
Ms. CAROL LOBATO: My doctors told me that I almost certainly would have died without aggressive intervention.
COSTELLO: Carol Lobato got sick after eating at a restaurant in Colorado .
Ms. LOBATO: You could say I'm angry. I'm angry that they've gotten by with it and they haven't cleaned up their act.
COSTELLO: Meanwhile, the FDA also came under fire for failing to ever inspect the farm before the outbreak.
Dr. JOSHUA SHARFSTEIN (FDA Deputy Commissioner): FDA had jurisdiction over egg production farms, but we didn't have the standards to -- against which we could inspect.
COSTELLO: Those new egg standards actually didn't even take effect until July, after the salmonella outbreak was already well under way. This was not a good day for Wright County Egg . The hearing did not go well for that company. Today it released a statement saying clearly it has to do more.