Four years after tainted eggs caused a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened 62,000 people, the Iowa farm responsible for those ill-fated ovules has agreed to pay $6.8 million in fines for selling old eggs under false labels for years.
Quality Egg LLC, one of the nation’s largest egg producers in the country, pleaded guilty yesterday to bribery and other charges tied to the salmonella outbreak in 2010 that saw a spate of illnesses across the country and prompted the recall of 550 million eggs, reports USA Today.
It pleaded 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.
In addition, the company’s owner and its chief operating officer pleaded guilty to introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.
The company admitted that it its employees gave cash bribes to a U.S. Agriculture Department inspector at least twice in 2010, so that it could sell tainted eggs, reports the Associated Press. Those had been “red tagged” because they didn’t meat the minimum USDA quality grade standards… and they ended up in our food supply.
Investigators said that the owners didn’t know that the company was deliberately mislabeling eggs for a period of four years to get past regulators and consumers, as well go around laws in certain states that have laws requiring eggs to be sold within a month or less of their processing dates.
Instead, officials said the company manager was in charge of a scheme to put false processing and expiration dates on eggs that had already been in storage for days or even weeks. And voila, fresher eggs.
What this all boiled down to, pun totally intended, is that Quality Egg didn’t have to sell its extra eggs for half price to a facility that sanitizes them and repackages them as a liquid product. Nope, those “distressed eggs” went to wholesalers for a higher price, the company manager said
An attorney representing dozens of the salmonella victims said the $6.8 million fine was “quite stunning,” and is one of the largest he’s heard of in 20 years working in food safety law. The agreement sends “a very strong message to companies that food safety is paramount,” he said.