Egg Investigation Heads to Maine

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REUTERS/Frank Polich

The AP is reporting an inquiry into 3 egg farms in Maine that have ties to Jack DeCoster, owner of an Iowa farm involved in the largest ever egg recall. DeCoster’s company recalled 380 million eggs for salmonella contamination, while the entire recall involved 550 million eggs.

A congressional committee today requested health inspection records for 3 of 7 DeCoster-owned farms in Maine as part of their investigation into the incident. The state’s standards are considered some of the strictest in the country.  In fact, Maine had it’s own safety regulations for egg farms in place before the FDA created federal guidelines in July.

Don Hoenig, Maine’s state veterinarian told the AP that, unlike the FDA, the state requires all chicks to be inoculated against salmonella and conducts more frequent inspections of hen coops.

Maine is Jack DeCoster’s home state and he owns 7 of its 9 commercial egg farms.  When the outbreak occurred in Iowa, Maine’s regulators forced him to hire a staff veterinarian to monitor illness at his facilities within their jurisdiction.

The Des Moines Register reported growing sentiment that Iowa should adopt state procedures similar to Maine’s, attributing much of that sentiment to Iowa’s Democratic candidate for state agriculture secretary, Frances Thicke:

It’s time for Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer, to require vaccination of hens and start its own inspection program to supplement new national regulations.

Whatever the committee finds about the three Maine farms, it could serve as a case study for other states that want to adopt their own standards on top of the FDA guidelines.