SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) -- A self-made titan in the egg industry, his son and the Iowa company they ran pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal food safety violations stemming from a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands in 2010.
Hard-boiled “egg industrialists” in hot water over salmonella outbreak? It’s hard not to scramble to make fun of these guys even though it’s a pretty serious story. But you have to admit you cracked a smile when you read it.
The father-son team, Austin and Peter DeCoster copped a plea that likely will mean fines but no jail time. Oh, and a little bit of medical help for some of the thousands of victims. Oh… and $6.8 million dollar fine for bribing a federal inspector and shipping poisonous food in interstate commerce, largest penalty of its kind in history. The DeCosters have accepted all that. The prosecutor has accepted all that. The judge has yet to say and -- evidently -- his word is final. The sentencing is scheduled for September.
If the deal goes through, the Egg Titans won’t be cooped up in a cell. They’ll just be a few million poorer.
The USDA inspector who let millions of contaminated eggs come to market for an extra 300-dollars in his pocket got the death penalty. That is to say he died before he could be put on the griddle.
And the DeCoster’s company? Well, it’s been fried before. In 2003 they were fined for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Oh... and faking “sell-by” dates.
The accused knew this was coming because this deal was reached before the charges were actually filed. Think about that. Would you get that preview of coming attractions?
Quality Egg is not on anyone’s list of top private companies. We’re not talking about something the size of General Foods, General Mills or General Electric. But Q-E is plenty big enough. Ask the 62-thousand people affected or the 1,900 who were made REALLY sick.
Papa Austin -- they call him “Jack”-- lives in Maine. Absentee landlord. Son Peter lives near enough to company headquarters in Iowa to smell the rotten eggs.
This kind of prosecution has become semi fashionable in recent decades. There were few of them before the Clinton administration. Better too many than too few. After all, if you didn’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Just ask the Innocence Project.
-Don’t bother to count… there are eight gratuitous sophomoric references to eggs in this post.
--Military justice varies considerably from civilian justice in this country. So it’s quite possible Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, freed by the Taliban after five years, will face some kind of charges. Especially since six soldiers are said to have died while searching for him. So far, he’s only been charged with “wandering off.”
--We can’t find “wandering off” anywhere in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But it sounds like something that should be added to the various state law books. Kind of a politically correct substitute for things like jailbreaks and fugitives from justice.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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