SIOUX City, Iowa (CN) – The former owner of the Quality Egg company and its chief operating officer were sentenced to three months in jail Monday for their roles in a 2010 salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands.
Austin DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, were also sentenced to one year supervised release and fined $100,000 for distributing food they allegedly knew were at risk for bacterial infection. They will remain free while appealing their sentence.
In June 2014, the two men pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.
At the same time their company, which does business outside Iowa as Wright County Egg and Environ, pleaded guilty to charges of bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, selling misbranded food and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, and agreed to pay a $6.79 million fine.
Prosecutors said Quality Egg had a long history of disregarding food safety regulations.
According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, the company’s employees mislabeled expiration dates, misrepresented safety protocols to major distributors such as Wal-Mart, and bribed a USDA official at least twice to push eggs to market that had been “red-tagged” for failing to meet minimum quality and safety standards.
Tony Wasmund, a former employee, pleaded guilty to authorizing the company to pay $300 to the inspector on one of those occasions, according to criminal charges filed in 2012.
The USDA inspector who accepted the bribes is now deceased.
The infected eggs led to nearly 2,000 reported illnesses across multiple states in 2010, spurring the recall of millions of eggs. But because so many food poisoning incidents go unreported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that as many as 56,000 consumers may have become sick from the infected eggs.
Attorneys for the DeCosters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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