Monday, Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, will both face possible jail sentences stemming from a Salmonella outbreak caused by their Iowa egg farms in 2010. The Salmonella outbreak ran from May 1 to Nov. 30, 2010, and prompted the recall of more than a half-billion shell eggs, the largest recall of its kind in history. And, while there were 1,939 confirmed infections, statistical models used to account for Salmonella illnesses in the U.S. suggest that the eggs may have sickened more than 62,000 people.
The family business, known as Quality Egg LLC, has already pleaded guilty to the federal felony count of bribing a USDA egg inspector and to two misdemeanors associated with the outbreak. It has agreed that the LLC will pay a $6.8-million fine and the DeCosters will be fined $100,000 each, for a total of $7 million. Left to be decided on Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett at sentencing is whether the DeCosters will do any prison time.
Frankly, although this outbreak and their past brushes with the law, would be enough to put one or both of them behind bars for a time. However, if the Court decides on fines and probation, I will be OK with that. The year fact that they were charged – along with the charging and sentencing of the brothers Parnell (9 dead, 714 sickened) and the brothers Jensen (33 dead and 147 sickened) – has sent a strong chill down the backs of more than a few corporate executives.
Me, in honor of the DeCoster sentencing, today I cleaned the coop (yes, I used a shop vac) and installed a new nesting box and perch. My seven hens are living large.