Austin “Jack” DeCoster (pictured left), owner of the now defunct Iowa-based Quality Egg LLC, and his son Peter DeCoster (pictured right) were both sentenced yesterday to 3 months in prison and 1 year of supervised release. Both defendants pleaded guilty in 2014 to a misdemeanor count of selling contaminated food across state lines.
Quality Egg was linked to a 2010 Salmonella outbreak that prompted a widespread egg recall and may have sickened an estimated 56,000 consumers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Both father and son were each fined $100,000, and their former egg company was hit with a $6.8 million fine.
In court, it was revealed that Quality Egg employees were not adhering to food safety standards, and they mislead retailers about their food safety practices. The company also reportedly falsified food safety audit documents and forged product expiration dates, misinforming customers as to how old their eggs really were. Furthermore, Quality Egg employees are said to have bribed a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, coaxing that person to release eggs that had not met federal food quality standards.
After the verdict, U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau for the Northern District of Iowa issued the following warning in an official statement:
“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,”
Similar convictions have been handed down in other outbreak cases including a deadly peanut recall caused by Salmonella in 2008, as well as a 2011 Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe.