August 23, 2010 The Honorable Tom Vilsack SecretaryUnited States Department of AgricultureRoom 200-A, Jamie L. Whitten Building12th Street & Jefferson Drive, SWWashington, DC 20250-0002Margaret Hamburg, M.D.Commissioner U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationU.S. Department of Health and Human Services10903 New Hampshire AveSilver Spring, MD 20993-0002 Dear Mr. Secretary and Dr. Hamburg: I am writing to determine what your respective agencies knew about the egg producer that reportedly is at the center of a salmonella outbreak that has sickenedapproximately 1,300 people. I am sure you are equally alarmed of the recent newsreports that this particular egg producer has an extensive record of health and safetyviolations as well as a poor compliance record with the Occupational Safety and HealthAdministration (OSHA) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).As you may have seen in the report in the August 22, 2010 Washington Post, the list of allegations against the DeCoster operations is extensive. Workers were forced to handlemanure and dead chickens with their bare hands and to live in filthy trailers, stateenvironmental laws were violated repeatedly, and the company failed to disclose itsinvestment in egg operations in another state to avoid a background check. This patternof regulatory non-compliance by the DeCoster operations should have served as awarning to regulators and warranted additional scrutiny of the company's ability tocomply with food safety standards. The extent of the outbreak, combined with the poor regulatory compliance record of thisegg producer, leads to questions about what could have been done to prevent it.Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the lead agency for thisinvestigation, jurisdiction over ensuring the safety of eggs covers both agencies, thereforethe following questions are directed to FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA). What did FDA and USDA know about the DeCoster operations before the current recall?Were both agencies aware of its poor compliance record with other regulatory agencies?