Two executives of egg producer Quality Egg LLC have been charged with a misdemeanor and the company is facing two counts of felony in relation to a 2010 Salmonella outbreak that led to hundreds of people becoming sick and ended in the recall of 500 million eggs across the United States. Austin DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster are expected to plead guilty in the federal court in the Northern District of Iowa, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors allege that the DeCosters bribed an inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow them to sell eggs that failed to meet federal standards on at least two occasions. The company also sold eggs with forged labels that made the products look fresher than they actually were.
The two executives are due to appear in court on June 3 for a plea hearing but it is not known whether prosecutors will ask for a jail term, according to the Associated Press. Quality Egg may face fines of $500,000 for each felony if convicted. This is not the first time Austin DeCoster has appeared in the same court. In 2003 he received probation for hiring illegal immigrants.
Criminal charges against food producers send a clear message to those who knowingly or unwittingly compromise food quality for U.S. consumers, an attorney representing victims of the DeCoster Salmonella outbreak told Reuters.