Two former egg company executives were sentenced to three months in prison in connection with a 2010 salmonella outbreak that led to thousands of illnesses and a large recall.
Former owner of Quality Egg LLC, Austin "Jack" DeCoster, along with his son and former COO Peter DeCoster, each pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor count of selling contaminated food across state lines. The company itself was fined $6.79 million and each exec was individually fined $100,000.
The massive 2010 salmonella outbreak was linked to 1,939 consumer illnesses in multiple states and caused the recall of millions of eggs. The company admitted to bribery and introducing misbranded and adulterated food into interstate commerce. Workers at the company admitted to knowingly shipping eggs with false expiration dates to fool state regulators and consumers. They also bribed a USDA inspector to approve the sale of poor quality eggs.
"The message this prosecution and sentence sends is a stern one to anyone tempted to place profits over people's welfare. Corporate officials are on notice. If you sell contaminated food you will be held responsible for your conduct. Claims of ignorance or ‘I delegated the responsibility to someone else’ will not shield them from criminal responsibility,” U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau for the Northern District of Iowa said in a statement.
Quality Egg LLC skirted safety regulations for years, misleading major consumers like Walmart. Since 2006, when testing for salmonella started, 47 percent of samples came back positive prior to the huge salmonella outbreak five years later.
“American consumers deserve to feel secure that the eggs they eat are safe and produced in sanitary conditions,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a statement. “The Department of Justice will pursue and prosecute those whose criminal conduct compromises the safety of our food supply.”
The elder DeCoster told the court he wasn’t worried about his sentence, but did pray for those who were impacted by the salmonella outbreak.
"God is the one I'm worried about," Jack DeCoster said to The Associated Press. "You can throw me in jail, your honor. That's all you can do to me. I've got to meet up with God one day."
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