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Egg recall: DeCoster-linked farm releases contaminated eggs. Again.

Egg recall this past week involves megafarmer Jack DeCoster, whose farm was part of this summer's huge 550 million egg recall.

By Elizabeth FullerCorrespondent / November 9, 2010

In this June 6 file photo, Austin 'Jack' DeCoster (right) appears in a Lewiston, Maine, court with attorney Timothy O'Brien, charged with 10 counts of animal cruelty. His company pleaded guilty and agreed to pay nearly $135,000 in fines. The latest egg recall involves an Ohio farm in which Mr. DeCoster was the largest investor.

Amber Waterman / Sun Journal / AP / File

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Nearly 300,000 eggs are being recalled contaminated with the same disease – and coming from a company linked to the same two men – as in this summer's huge 550 million egg recall.

Egg seller Cal-Maine, Inc. announced Nov. 5 that it was recalling “approximately 24,000 dozen” eggs that it had processed and repackaged between Oct. 9 and 12. The company issued the recall after the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) informed it that a study sample had tested positive for salmonella enteritidis.

The contaminated eggs were distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, Cal-Maine reported. The full list of contaminated brands and lots is below.

There have been no confirmed illnesses related to the purchased eggs, but “consumers who believe they may have purchased potentially affected shell eggs should not eat them,” Cal-Maine said in a statement. “Return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund.”

Consumers can also call Cal-Maine’s corporate office at 866-276-6299 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. central time with questions and concerns.

But Cal-Maine’s chickens didn’t lay the diseased eggs. The eggs came from Ohio Fresh Eggs, whose biggest investor was Austin “Jack” DeCoster (who invested $125 million, according to Ohio court records). The two owners, Orland Bethel and Don Hershey, invested $10,000 apiece, the records show.

Mr. DeCoster and Mr. Bethel each own one of the two Iowa farms – Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, respectively – that distributed the 550 million eggs recalled this summer. The 1,600 reported cases of salmonella linked to those contaminated eggs constitute the largest outbreak since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking salmonella in the late 1970s.

Repeat offender

This is not the first time that DeCoster's farming operations have been cited for problems. In June 2000, DeCoster became the first person labeled a “habitual violator” of Iowa’s environmental laws, meaning that his business had already been successfully sued at least three times by the Iowa attorney general.

Under Iowa state law, habitual violators can have daily fines quintupled from $5,000 to $25,000 and they are prohibited from expanding their business. Despite this, the Iowa Independent reports, DeCoster has found work-arounds that allow his agro-empire to keep growing.

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