Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa, two Iowa-based dairy farms, have collectively recalled 550 million eggs due to a salmonella outbreak, the largest such recall in recent history. Both have close ties to Jack DeCoster, an agribusiness owner. Now, Rep. Rosa DeLauro wants to know more about DeCoster, and what federal regulators knew about them:

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 [...]

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 Food and Drug Administration has been systematically dismantled over 30 years of deregulation, underfunding and conservative neglect. Eighteen months of the Obama Administration’s renewed focus have yet to overcome these obstacles. The FDA simply does not have the resources to prevent outbreaks like this or to inspect every plant, nor do they have the authority to administer the kind of penalties that would actually force compliance, rather than the producers seeing it as the cost of doing business.

Rick Perlstein coined the term “e.coli conservatism,” which chronicled this deregulatory fervor. It has continued under a Democratic Administration because it’s hard-wired into the funding streams and the regulatory apparatus.

The House passed a food safety bill last summer that would have at least reversed some of this trend, but it’s been, say it with me now, stalled in the Senate, and while a tentative agreement has reportedly been reached, many see the Senate product as having little to do with “food” or “safety”. It’s possible the egg recall will act as a corrective and force through something more legitimate, but in the meantime, we’re still living under accumulated rules from Presidents who didn’t care much at all about food safety. And that’s why this recall happened, with more recalls expected and more people sure to get sick.

Free safety tip in this article: Don’t eat undercooked eggs.