08.31.10

Eat Shit Farms, LLC

Posted in Bioterrorism, Predator State, Stumble and Fail at 2:43 pm by George Smith

The daily newspaper is now always loaded with Dickensian characters.

The country has a class of people, a club that hated the last two thirds of A Christmas Carol.

Often they have truly negative security implications for the general welfare.

Take Austin “Jack” DeCoster, the man behind the biggest egg recall in US history, profiled in the Los Angeles Times last week.

As the head of Wright County Egg Farms in Iowa, the paper couldn’t have painted him more poorly. If there was something evil Decoster hadn’t done in food production in the last few years, one can’t imagine what it might have been.

Decoster caused child labor laws to be rewritten in Maine, was sued by neighbors for “beetle infestation,” had eggs his company produced banned in New York, and was declared a “habitual violator” of environmental regulations in Iowa for “mishandling of hog waste.”

And in 1997 he was fined by the feds for “numerous egregious safety and health violations” in Maine.

But the US system just can’t get a guy like this off the street, even after he’s directly responsible for sickening 1,500 with Salmonella enteritidis.

DD has covered this before.

During the Bush administration it was like this:

In the predator state, the bad company led by bad men will literally poison the public. And they won’t stop until people are killed. In the predator state system, still that’s not even enough to get them [dragged off].

A year ago Baxter International and another US company it did business with killed people by selling tainted heparin. Heparin is a necessary drug in US medicine and it used to be made here. But in the rush for profits, like many other US businesses, both companies subcontracted their formerly in-house work to China, where there were people willing and malicious enough to deliver a cheaper counterfeit substance, a derivative of chondroitin sulfate, used to mimic heparin. The counterfeit material sickened hundreds and killed a number of people outright. There were news stories and vows of reform. And then nothing happened; it was back to business as usual in the predator state. It was no time to get in the way of commerce!

Today readers have the spectacle of the house hearings in which Peanut Corporation of America’s CEO, Stewart Parnell, is seen as willfully urging his employees to get his salmonella-laced peanuts out the door.

“[Parnell] gave instructions to nonetheless ‘turn them loose’ … ” reports the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. At the time, Parnell was engaged in finding a laboratory that wouldn’t return a positive salmonella test, kind of like fishing through a high school bundle of failed exams, looking for the lone good one, the coincidental exception, that could be waved around to show what a diligent student you were.

However, despite making hundreds ill and killing a handful, Parnell’s still on the street and the bulldozers haven’t been called. Literally, months go by — sometimes years — and the US government just will not remove such people.

In the predator state, this is the way things work, or — don’t work.

In the predator state, it is important to look the other way, to pretend to be concerned, but to actually remain indifferent to such things as long as humanly possible. Because to take action would be to interfere with the business of predators, the making of profit at everyone else’s expense.

Two years later, and despite lots of noise from the Obama administration about making regulation stronger and revamping the FDA with someone named Margaret Hamburg — someone at the time of appointment alleged to be great — it’s the same old story.

Not enough regulations, or regulations put in place too late, or ignored, or any other miscellaneous excuse from a bottomless grab-bag to explain why we have the trouble we do.

At least the Chinese government has the stones to actually execute a couple businessmen every once in awhile for poisoning or sickening a mass of people.

The Los Angeles Times profile of DeCoster had someone attesting he was at least good for local tax revenues. This because in desperate times people will accept anything really bad as long as there’s a bit of money that comes with it.

And one of his old attorney’s added: “I know Jack pushes the envelope because he’s growth oriented.”

Growth-oriented and envelope-pushing to the extent that today newspapers read:

Federal investigators found piles of manure up to eight feet tall, live mice, pigeons and other birds inside the hen houses at two egg farms suspected of causing a nationwide outbreak of salmonella illness, officials said Monday.

Investigators made public their observations of Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, two massive egg producers who have recalled nearly 500 million eggs since Aug. 13.

===

FDA officials said Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms appeared to violate federal regulations for egg safety that took effect July 9, as well as voluntary industry standards for sanitation. Company officials have said they were in compliance. — the WaPost

On its blog, the LA Times explained salmonella had been virtually eliminated from state egg production by institution of a rigorous program of sanitation.

But it gets in the way of profit.

The program, which includes vaccinating hens and testing barns regularly for bacteria, has essentially wiped out salmonella on California farms, industry officials say. Yet only nine other states have enacted similar government-sponsored efforts.

In other words, protecting the public has impacted business and that we cannot abide:

One reason, the Armstrongs and other California farmers contend, is cost. Injecting chickens and swabbing cages takes money — not a fortune, but enough to send egg distributors searching for lower-cost sources.

“We have lost contracts over pennies a dozen,” Ryan Armstrong said. “They want cheap eggs.”

One obvious answer to this is for the US government to regularly destroy a business and ban its bosses for causing mass illness through negligence and cost-cutting. And to do it swiftly.

Not to just talk about putting a bootheel on some company’s throat but actually crush its windpipe. And then throw the leftover garbage in a hole.

Sadly, I doubt this will ever happen in what’s left of our lifetimes. You’re going to regularly see more and more of this type of thing.

Hand in hand with it — almost unnoticed, however — will go regular increases in expenditure to increasing food security against attack from terrorists.

The article from old DD blog continued:

In the predator state, it is critical that attention be diverted from real liabilities to the external menace, potential threats which can even be trumped up in the absence of proof that such things exist in a practical sense. In the case of tainted food and drugs, it has been the radical Islamists under Osama bin Laden who have been passed around as those who would easily poison and contaminate American food and drugs.

Terrorists might put botulism in milk, killing hundreds of thousands.

Terrorists might put anthrax in beef, rice or orange juice. (It was an American, an insider, working from a biodefense lab, who put anthrax in the mail, killing five. But only recently has research on dangerous agents been suspended at the lab where the insider, Bruce Ivins, worked so that the military-run disease house can be internally put in order.)

Osama bin Laden might even poison meals at school!

In fact, one famous example always used to squeal about what terrorists can do to food was also an American example, the work of the Rajneeshee cult in The Dalles, Oregon. And while it was intentional, it still was not as effective at creating illness, monetary loss and disruption as the recent egg recall.

From a paper posted at the Centers for Disease Control:

Bioterrorist attacks could be covert or announced and could be caused by virtually any pathogenic microorganism. The case of the Rajneeshee religious cult in The Dalles, Oregon, is an example (1). The cult planned to infect residents with Salmonella on election day to influence the results of county elections. To practice for the attack, they contaminated salad bars at 10 restaurants with S. Typhimurium on several occasions before the election. A communitywide outbreak of salmonellosis resulted; at least 751 cases were documented in a county that typically reports fewer than five cases per year. Although bioterrorism was considered a possibility when the outbreak was being investigated by public health officials, it was considered unlikely. The source of the outbreak became known only when FBI investigated the cult for other criminal violations. A vial of S. Typhimurium identical to the outbreak strain was found in a clinical laboratory on the cult’s compound, and members of the cult subsequently admitted to contaminating the salad bars and putting Salmonella into a city water supply tank. This incident, among other recent events, underscores the importance of improving preparedness at all levels.

There’s a way of logically looking at these problems. But the US government doesn’t do it and corporate interests work to discourage it.

History shows that bioterrorism as a mechanism for causing illness and disruption is not nearly as frequent, effective, or motivating as the combination of greed, lack of regulation, and an utter disregard for the public welfare.

That’s just a fact.

7 Comments

  1. al said,

    September 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks. Enjoyed reading.
    Adulteration, old as time it’s self.
    Outlasted the word!

    I’ve read how radioactive scrap metal can be found in the jewelry of women in Fort Lee New Jersey. \

    I used to think it was just ‘greed’ that obviously cannot be eliminated, but now feel the capitalistic system, will always result in creators, sooner or later, decimated by lamprey.

    Swindled is a well researched book that covers the history of adulteration.
    You write similar to it’s author.

  2. George Smith said,

    September 8, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Someone commented:

    “Please do not confuse the issue of passing and enforcing laws (including sanitation-related laws) with ‘capitalism’.”

    [The rest — longish sob story about how rotten it was in the Soviet Union, a place said to be packed with too much regulation — deleted.]

    I don’t. Nothing on this blog is communist, as you insinuate. Which is why you were spiked.

  3. TorJunkie said,

    September 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I was actually referring to the previous comment, with its quip about “capitalistic system”. The commenter must have thought that your post advocates regulation. It does look that way, too.

    Strangely, you assume that referring to the Soviet economics experience somehow insinuates that you are a communist (btw, I had not used that word). In fact, late Soviet economics was not actually driven by ideology, and it’s a serious mistake to believe that it was.

    What it was was a perfect example of regulation-based economy that was supposed to excel at eliminating exactly the kinds of things you are writing about, along with the “capitalist greed”. It failed dramatically at that, and it would be helpful for your argument to understand why that happened, despite measures you seem to approve of being in place.

    Also, there is a big difference between communist and socialist approaches, and one absolutely does not need to be a communist to approve of the idea of regulation. The trick is to understand why regulations, no matter how harsh, do not work beyond certain natural limits, and what these limits are.

    Soviet economy provides classic and non-trivial examples of this – in pure economics terms, virtually untainted with ideology. Sadly, people tend to dismiss it with abstract references to “communism”, and then go about reinventing the same square wheel.

    Sorry to have trespassed on your time.

  4. George Smith said,

    September 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Framed it better.

    Nevertheless, the US system is broken in favor of corporate malfeasance and predation. And the Dickensian nature of it looms large as a security threat — particularly when talking of the welfare of the population.

    The argument that the market takes care of it is one that’s code for ‘give me what I want and to Hell with the rest of you.’ The market does not adjust to smash rogue companies. In many cases, it rewards them.

    Here’s another particularly egregious example with national security implications.

  5. Dick Destiny » Eat Shit Farms, LLC (continued) said,

    September 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    […] the last installment of Eat Shit Farms, I contrasted Austin “Jack” DeCoster’s Iowa tainted egg farms with the case of […]

  6. Dick Destiny » Eat Shit Farms, LLC: More Dickensian character said,

    September 22, 2010 at 9:38 am

    […] a quote from the Washington Post, in my original post on Eat Shit Farms, which has now been downloaded a couple thousand times (It’s the top read on the blog since it went up): Federal investigators found piles of manure […]

  7. Dick Destiny » The Return of Eat Shit Farms, LLC said,

    November 9, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    […] “Jack” DeCoster’s salmonella-contaminated wholesale nationwide egg business is here and […]