An Iowa egg production company and two of its leaders face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines plus possible prison time after admitting to selling eggs that failed government inspection and bribing a USDA inspector to overlook the failure.
Employees of Quality Egg, with operations in Wright County, gave a cash bribe twice in 2010 to a now-deceased inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in an attempt to get the inspector to allow the release of eggs previously tagged for failing to meet minimum USDA standards, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau.
The company also admitted that, between January 2006 and August 2010, employees would hold egg shipments in storage for several days or several weeks, then label the egg shipments with false processing and expiration dates so inspectors and customers didn’t know the true age of the eggs.
Eggs from Quality Egg were also found to be contaminated with Salmonella Enteriditis in 2010.
“If eggs contaminated with SE are eaten raw or lightly cooked (runny egg whites or yolks), the bacterium can cause illness,” according to the Centers for Disease Control website.
Guilty pleas were entered in federal court June 3, 2014 on behalf of Quality Egg LLC, for 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 faces up to five years of probation for each count and fines between $100,000 and $500,000 for each offense.
Austin “Jack” DeCoster and Peter Decoster each pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of introducing adulterated eggs into interstate commerce. Techau’s statement said they each face a maximum sentence of one year in prison or up to five years probation plus a fine of at least $100,000. Both men remained free on bail pending sentencing. Their sentencing dates had not yet been set.
Former Quality Egg employee Tony Wasmund was scheduled to be sentenced September 12, 2014 after he pleaded guilty in 2012 to three counts including conspiracy to bribe a public official.