The owner and a top executive of Quality Egg LLC were sentenced Monday in federal district court in Iowa for their roles in a 2010 salmonella outbreak stemming from adulterated eggs that sickened consumers nationwide.
According to the US Department of Justice, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, 81, and his son, Peter DeCoster, 51, were each fined $100,000 and sentenced to serve three months in prison. Quality Egg was fined $6.79 million and placed on probation for three years.
The company pleaded guilty in July last year to one count of bribery of a public official, one count of introducing a misbranded food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud and one count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. Jack and Peter DeCoster each pleaded guilty to one count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.
“The message this prosecution and sentence sends is a stern one to anyone tempted to place profits over people’s welfare,” said the US Attorney Kevin Techau of the Northern District of Iowa. “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.”
In the plea agreements, the company admitted its eggs were adulterated and contained a poisonous and harmful substance, Salmonella Enteritidis, which may have presented a health risk, according to the justice department.
Authorities were able to link adulterated eggs produced and distributed by Quality Egg to approximately 1,939 reported consumer illnesses in the spring and summer of 2010. This outbreak resulted in a nationwide recall of millions of eggs produced by the company in August of 2010.
“Food manufacturers have a responsibility to produce and sell food that is safe for consumers to eat,” said Stephen Ostroff, FDA acting commissioner. “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.”