July 13, 2020

Guilty Plea in 2010 Salmonella Egg Outbreak

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter pleaded guilty this morning to charges stemming from a 2010 Salmonella outbreak linked to eggs their company produced and sold.  Sentences for the DeCosters, who pleaded guilty to introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, have not yet been decided but could include up to one year in jail, fines of up to $100,000 a piece and restitution for the 2,000 victims of the outbreak.

Gavel on BenchUnder a plea deal,  their company, Quality Egg LLC, pleaded guilty to bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, selling misbranded food and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and agreed to pay a $6.8 million fine. A judge has not yet ruled on the plea deal.

The case, number 14-cr-3024, U.S. v Quality Egg, LLC, Austin DeCoster and Peter DeCoster, was filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Iowa. The $6.8 million fine is one of the largest associated with a food safety case, the outbreak is also one of the largest.

From May 1 to November 30, 2010,  1,939 illnesses were reported in association with eggs that the company produced. The outbreak prompted a recall of 550 million eggs.

According to court documents, officers of the company other than he DeCosters knowingly sold contaminated eggs for the the eight months preceding the August 2010 recall. They also falsified expiration dates to make the eggs seem fresher than they actually were.

Two employees also bribed a USDA inspector, who has since died, in an effort to allow the release of egg pallets that failed to meet federal standards because so many of the eggs were cracked or dirty.

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