Serious food safety breaches, which lead to almost 2000 reported cases of food poisoning, have seen two executives from a US egg company each received jail sentences and massive fines.
Austin DeCoster, Quality Egg’s former owner, and his son Peter DeCoster, former COO of the company, were both sentenced to three months in prison earlier this week. The pair was also ordered to each pay a $128,955.35 (AUD) fine for their part in the 2010 nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to Quality Egg. The company and the two executives, who pled guilty to the charges, were also ordered to pay a total of $107,055.08 (AUD) in restitution.
Quality Eggs were found guilty of producing and selling adulterated eggs, which contained the poisonous and harmful substance Salmonella Enteriditis, in multiple US states that were subsequently linked to 1,939 reported cases of consumer’s illness.
Quality eggs also pled guilty to two charges of bribing a US Department of Agriculture inspector and fraud charges relating to the sale of misbranded eggs. The company itself was fined $6.79 million for the breaches and has been placed on probation for a period of three years.
The Case Against Quality Eggs
According to a memorandum issued by the government, it was reported that for years, Quality Egg staff had shown complete disregard for the food safety standards and practices. They also misled countless customers, including Walmart, about the standard of the company’s food safety practices.’
The memorandum also noted that the company was well aware that tests run on the presence of Salmonella Enteriditis in their barns and hens had returned positive readings for 47 percent of the days tested. This number continued to rise, which the company was also aware of, up until the product recall that began in August 2010.
The state prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan, said that Quality Egg had also created fake food safety plans that included false claims of the company practising the proper level of biosecurity and pest control measures.
Authorities Acknowledge the Severity of Food Safety Breaches
“Food manufacturers have a responsibility to produce and sell food that is safe for consumers to eat. Eggs are commonly consumed nationwide, both on their own and as ingredients in other foods. When manufacturers fail to produce safe food, the FDA will take action to protect public health,” said US Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner, Dr. Stephen Ostroff.
This story has been making global headlines for more than half a decade and has exposed the public to a truly shocking case of horrendous neglect in food safety. The results of this case, which follow numerous civil suits that have been previously brought against Quality Egg, will likely open up both Austin DeCoster, his son Peter DeCoster and the company to further litigation.