Egg moguls belong behind bars

The Des Moines Register writes in this editorial that four months ago, Iowa egg producers Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter, were each sentenced to 90 days in prison for their role in the nation’s largest egg-related Salmonella outbreak.

decosterNow, however, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, the National Association of Manufacturers and other major business organizations are fighting to keep the DeCosters out of prison.

They’ve filed briefs with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, siding with the DeCosters in arguing that while fines and probation are acceptable in such cases, it’s unconstitutional to put corporate executives behind bars for the criminal actions of their underlings.

It’s an interesting case with major legal and ethical implications. After all, mere fines aren’t much of a deterrent to executives who collect multi-million-dollar salaries. But a 90-day stint in prison, as the DeCosters themselves argue in their court filings, carries with it the “personal loss and stigma” associated with becoming a convict.

In this case, a prison sentence certainly seems warranted. The Quality Egg salmonella outbreak of 2010 sickened at least 56,000 people (about 1,800 confirmed) and triggered a record-setting recall of more than half a billion eggs.

salmonella.eggsAs to whether the DeCosters themselves were to blame for the outbreak, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett found the two men had created a “culture of rampant safety violations” and a “work environment where employees not only felt comfortable disregarding regulations and bribing USDA officials, but may have even felt pressure to do so.”

The editorial conclueds that tens of thousands of people were sickened as a direct result of the manner in which the DeCosters managed — or, rather, mismanaged — Quality Egg and its employees. For that, the DeCosters should be held accountable. A prison sentence is entirely appropriate.

Beware raw egg dishes: 160 sickened, Salmonella trial delayed in Canberra

A criminal trial over Canberra’s largest salmonella outbreak has been delayed until next year.

mayonnaise.raw.eggThe owners of the former Copa Brazilian restaurant had been scheduled to go before the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday over the incident that left about 160 people with food poisoning in May 2013.

Under ACT food safety law, those who either knowingly or negligently sell unsafe food can face criminal prosecution.

The criminal case follows civil lawsuits against the restaurant, with an estimated $1 million, including costs, paid out to those struck down by salmonella.

An ACT Health investigation found a supplier in Victoria to be responsible for the bad eggs that had been used by the Dickson restaurant to make raw egg mayonnaise.

The mayonnaise was then served to diners in a potato salad.

Many patrons of the then newly-opened all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbecue were struck down with salmonella poisoning, and the Canberra Hospital’s emergency department reportedly had one of its busiest days on record.

In the aftermath, the restaurant issued an apology to those affected and removed all products containing raw egg from its menu to ensure the poisoning was not repeated.

It closed voluntarily, before reopening under the close watch of ACT Health authorities.

But the restaurant eventually closed its doors and left Dickson in June last year.

He’s baaaaack: DeCoster to buy Maine egg producer

A farm executive who pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination in front of a congressional committee investigating an Iowa salmonella outbreak is the same person who signed a new lease on Maine’s largest egg farm last month.

decosterThe Maine Department of Environmental Protection is considering a request by a Land O’Lakes subsidiary to transfer active permits to Hillandale Farms, which was involved with Jack DeCoster (right, pretty much as shown) in the Iowa salmonella outbreak that sickened 1,900 people in 2010, the Sun Journal reported.

Hillendale, an egg producer headquartered in Pennsylvania, signed a lease to operate the farms on July 8. But the properties continue to be owned by DeCoster’s corporate entities, the newspaper said.

A University of Maine veterinarian who sits on a salmonella risk reduction team for the state says Moark, a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, had been “terrific” to work with. She hopes for the same with Hillandale.

“We are vitally interested in the health of Maine people (and) we want our state to have a poultry industry as well,” said Anne Lichtenwalner, director of UMaine’s Animal Health Lab. “We want transparency and we want collaboration, and I think that they are walking into a positive situation. One hopes that they embrace that.”

Moark signed its lease over to Hillandale Farms Conn LLC on July 8. That agreement was signed by Hillandale President Orland Bethel, who in 2010 pleaded the Fifth in front of the Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee when he and DeCoster were asked to testify about the salmonella outbreak.

DeCoster’s company managed Hillandale’s Alden, Iowa, farm.

Australia still has an egg problem: Salmonella up, other foodborne illnesses falling

Despite more than four million Australians getting sick from contaminated food each year, the overall national rate of food poisoning is falling.

garlic_aioliExcept, that is, when it comes to Salmonella.

A glance at Victoria’s Department of Health figures for example, shows an increase of 65 per cent in Salmonella poisoning since 2012, where 2,500 people reported ill in the 12 months to August 2015.

Queensland has seen a doubling of Salmonella cases in the past 12 months.

According to Department of Health, “overall, despite more coverage, foodborne illness is declining, from 4.3 million cases a year in 2000 to 4.1 million cases in 2010.

“Our supply chains have become more complex, our meal solutions have become a lot more complex. It’s not just chops and three veg as it used to be.

“Shelf life is stretched to the limit.

“It’s across all food items, and Australian consumers can expect to fall ill from food contamination every four or five years on average due to contaminated food.”

It is thought that consumption of frozen berries in Australia is now 30 per cent of where it was when Hep A struck earlier this year.

“While salmonella bacteria are most commonly associated with livestock and chickens, they have also been responsible for food safety outbreaks associated with fresh produce,” says the new Food Safety Guideline.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-12-15-2.pdf or http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-12-15.xlsx

Raw eggs again: 16 stricken with Salmonella in Seattle

JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times reports that as many as 16 people were likely sickened with salmonella poisoning from raw eggs used in Father’s Day weekend brunch dishes served at Tallulah’s restaurant in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, health officials said Wednesday.

Tallulah’sVictims in the June 21 outbreak ranged in ages from 4 to 71, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County said. There were nine confirmed cases and seven probable cases of infection, including one person who was hospitalized.

The infections were traced to crab and ham eggs Benedict dishes, which typically include a sauce made from raw eggs. Managers at the restaurant at 550 19th Ave. E reported the problem to health officials after receiving complaints from customers. Restaurant staff have been cooperative with the environmental health and epidemiologic investigation, officials said.

An investigation of the egg supplier and distributor conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture revealed no violation of regulations regarding temperature control, storage or handling, officials said. The producer reported no recent positive tests for salmonella bacteria, although they don’t routinely test raw shell eggs.

The restaurant menu was appropriately labeled to note that dishes made with raw or undercooked foods could result in foodborne illness.

 

1 dead, 32 sickened: Salmonella in UK eggs from Bavaria

The UK also has an egg problem.

A report has found a Salmonella outbreak at a Birmingham hospital directly caused the death of a patient.

egg.dirty.feb.12The outbreak at Heartlands Hospital in Bordesley Green, between 25 May and 18 June 2014, saw 32 staff and patients infected.

Five of those patients, who were seriously ill, later died, but salmonella was not directly responsible, the report said.

The outbreak was traced to contaminated eggs produced in Bavaria, Germany.

Prof Eric Bolton’s report found inadequately equipped wards, unmonitored food preparation, and poor cleaning helped it spread.

Initial swabbing found a food trolley in the Beech ward, left near a toilet, to be contaminated with salmonella.

There were staff shortages on the two wards, which led to them feeling a sense of “blame and isolation”.

“On reflection these staff were taking the brunt of the salmonella infection issues and became a little demoralised during the outbreak,” the report said.

Main report recommendations:

  • The Heart of England NHS Trust should review its infection control and cleaning services to ensure they meet the requirements of The Health and Social Care Act 2008
  • The trust should review the need for a plan that deals with major incidents or outbreaks
  • The trust should regularly review major policies that relate to patient safety and infection control procedures as a number were overdue for review
  • The trust should review all of its high-risk, specialist wards in the light of the experience from this outbreak and ensure that the ward environment and equipment is fit for purpose
  • The trust should ensure that all ward staff handling food undertake food hygiene training.

 

Inspections and audits are never enough: Blame the consumer, German version, deadly Salmonella outbreak traced to Bavarian egg farm

Despite visiting the infected farm on a number of occasions, finding Salmonella and seeing an unusual amount of dead chickens, Bavarian health authorities took no action, leading to widespread illness and multiple deaths across Europe last summer, Sputnik reported.

salmonella.eggsAn outbreak of Salmonella which led to hundreds of people falling ill across Europe last summer, and was linked to several deaths, has been traced back to contaminated eggs from a farm in Bavaria, German media has revealed.

The farm is owned by the Bayern Ei company, one of Germany’s largest egg producers which operates four chicken factories, where hens lay some one million eggs a day.

At the farm in question, in the southern region of Lower Bavaria, where hundreds of chickens were being found dead each day, company bosses initially told employees the death rate was due to chickens dying from heat.

According to the investigation carried out by reporters from Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung and Bayerischen Rundfunk, the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authorities knew about the presence of Salmonella at the farm, having found evidence of the infection in two separate investigations.

However, the authorities turned a blind eye and took no action to take products from the farm off the market, since “the responsible customer” is aware that “eggshells are not sterile,” and should wash their hands after handling an egg.

2 dead, hundreds sickened in German Salmonella outbreak: It can come from free-range and organic eggs

From the duh files:

egg.dirty.feb.12Berlin-based consumer protection organization Foodwatch warned about the state of food animal farming and called for stronger regulations for maintaining animals on Thursday. This follows an outbreak of salmonella that killed two and sickened hundreds, thought to have hailed from a Bavarian company.

The source of the outbreak is believed to be Bavarian egg producer Bayern-Ei. The district attorney for the city of Regensburg is investigating whether the company “brought dangerous food onto the market” in the past year, while animal rights activists have criticized the company for keeping large groups of chickens in small, overcrowded cages.

Theo Ziegler, senior public prosecutor in Regensburg, said that should their suspicions be confirmed, the firm would have to answer for the two deaths following the outbreak in mid-2014. Hundreds of people in Germany, the UK, Austria, France and Luxembourg fell ill from the same strain of salmonella.

Officials in Britain and Austria, which each lost a citizen to the outbreak, claim they are certain at least one of the deaths can be traced to Bayern-Ei.

Foodwatch cautioned in a report on the egg industry that no matter what the nature of egg production – free-range, cage-free, caged or organic – the humane treatment and safety of the products is not guaranteed.

Duh.

CSI UV goggles? How to tell if an egg is bad

Friend of the barfblog and current Welsh tourist, Don Schaffner of Rutgers University, has a few things to say about egg safety, especially: most of those so-called tests are BS.

nsw.egg.label.oct.14According to SafeBee, there are lots of egg tests on the Internet. You’re supposed to place an egg in a bowl of cold water, for instance. If it floats, it’s old. If it sinks, it’s fresh. If it sinks but stands on its pointed end, it’s supposedly a caution: eat it now before it goes bad. 

The theory behind the float test? Egg shells are porous, and as time goes on the egg’s liquid evaporates through the porous shell and air enters. That makes the eggs more buoyant, so some say the older an egg, the more it floats. 

Forget this test, says Don Schaffner, PhD, a food scientist at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey. “Eggs do take in air as they age, but the size of the air cell in the egg varies from egg to egg. So a freshly laid egg and an older egg may react similarly.” There is too much variability in air cell size from egg to egg to make this a valid test, he says. 

Other Internet advice calls for cracking the egg open and inspecting the yolk and albumen (the white part). If it’s a fresh egg, the yolk should be bright yellow or orange, and the white should not spread much. 

Schaffner gives a thumbs-down to this test as well. “The color of the yolk is primarily determined by what they feed the chickens,” he says. “It may change over time, but it will vary from egg to egg.”

As for the white part: “An older egg will have a white that spreads more than a fresher egg,” he says. “But that has nothing to do with the fact that the egg is spoiled or not, it’s a chemical, physical change in the egg.” 

Another popular idea is to give your egg the sound test. In a quiet space, hold the egg up to your ear and shake it. If it sloshes, the egg has gone bad, the story goes. That sloshing is said to indicate a watery, old yolk.  

Shaffner says this sound test has no credibility. “Eggs do slosh around,” he says. Sloshing doesn’t indicate spoilage, however, he says. He does have another use for the sound test: “That would be a good way to see if the egg is hardboiled or not.”

powell.egg.nov.14The best test to see if an egg is OK to eat? Get the egg in question and have your nose ready. “As far as I know the only way to know an egg is bad is to crack it open and see if it smells.” Of course, you can always examine the egg as you smell, he says. “If it looks strange, I wouldn’t consume it, but odor is the real tip off.” 

Never mind that your refrigerator has a special spot for eggs built into the door. Keep them in the carton, Schaffner and others say. “We know the door is not as good,” he says.

Instead, put the eggs, still in the carton, in the coldest part of the refrigerator. On the door, the temperatures may fluctuate when the door is opened and closed. Keeping the eggs in the carton also means you can refer to the sell-by date. Eggs — even hard-boiled eggs — should not be left out at room temperature more than two hours, as dangerous bacteria can grow. 

“Salmonella is the organism we are most worried about,” Schaffner says. It could be inside the egg if it was infected before it was laid, or it could be on the shell.

Cook whole eggs to about 144 to 158 degrees F; egg whites, 144 to 149; yolks, 149 to 158. Cooking eggs sunny side up or over easy is more of a Salmonella risk than cooking them more thoroughly, Schaffner says.

2000 sickened: US egg executives punished for Salmonella outbreak, sentences send strong message to industry (no it doesn’t)

If you’re an egg producer and sicken over 2,000 people with Salmonella because of your shitty procedures, three months in jail and fines is not a victory.

Raw_eggIt’s shit.

They’ll be out in a month (I’ve been in jail).

According to AP, the three-month sentences handed down in federal court are noteworthy because only a handful of cases of corporate misconduct end with executives behind bars (in the U.S.). The extent of harm caused by the outbreak and the pattern of problems led to the decision for jail time.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, each faced up to a year in jail on misdemeanor charges for shipping adulterated food. They will remain free while appealing their sentences.

“There’s a litany of shameful conduct, in my view, that happened under their watch,” U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett said.

Prosecutors said the jail sentences send a strong message about the importance of following food safety rules.

“A sentence of imprisonment is a fairly significant sentence in a case like this,” said Peter Deegan, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.

No, it just shows how little the U.S. cares about food safety and the free reign to make people sick.

What can consumers do if they want to eat eggs?

Nothing.

Market microbial food safety at retail.