The two former operators of an egg production facility in Wright County were each sentenced Monday to three months in prison and fined $100,000 in connection with a nationwide salmonella outbreak in 2010.
Eighty-one-year-old Jack DeCoster of Turner, Maine was the owner of Quality Egg, and his 51-year-old son Peter of Clarion, Iowa, was the chief operating officer.
Jack and Peter DeCoster each pleaded guilty to one count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. Their former company, Quality Egg, pled guilty 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. The company was sentenced to pay a fine of $6.79 million and placed on probation for three years.
Court records show the company knew of salmonella in their egg laying plant, but mislead customers and tried to bribe inspectors to conceal the positive salmonella tests prior to the disease outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control says the outbreak likely caused nearly 2,000 people to become sick. Jennifer Zwagerman of the Drake University Agricultural Law Center says it’s surprising that the DeCosters received jail time at all.
“The fact that they got jail time at all is very significant in terms of sending a message from the government and the courts that they are taking food safety and the responsibilities of the corporate world that are providing food products very seriously.
The DeCosters will each have to serve one year of probation following their prison time. Both say they plan to appeal their jail sentence.