Monday, April 27, 2015

How could this egg cheating happen?

An editorial in an Iowa newspaper asks a lot of poignant questions about the egg scandal that ended in the court sentencing of Jack and son Peter DeCoster this month.

“What's more worrisome than the (leniency of the) 90-day sentences is the fact that the DeCosters flouted federal regulations for years without ever being caught.

“The regulatory system that is supposed to prevent — not simply respond to — violations of food-safety regulations failed us completely.

“It wasn't until consumers started becoming ill that investigators took any sort of meaningful action against the DeCosters,” the editorial says.

“According to federal authorities, the company deliberately and routinely provided false paperwork to an independent auditing firm that periodically inspected the plant and reviewed the company's records to ensure the eggs were safe.

“On the eve of each impending audit, workers were given blank, signed audit forms and told to fabricate data for the reports.

“This went on for at least three years, at a time when the DeCosters were producing more than 1 million eggs per day.

“For at least eight years, Quality Egg regularly shipped its customers eggs that were labeled with falsified processing dates and expiration dates to conceal the fact that the eggs were old. “According to court records, this mislabeling of DeCoster eggs ‘was a common practice, and was well known among several Quality Egg employees.’

“In 2010, federal inspectors conducted on-site visits to the company's egg-laying facilities and feed mill.

“ Inside, they found frogs, wild birds, a chicken skeleton, mice, beetles, maggots and flies and manure that was piled to the rafters inside one building.

“Salmonella contamination was pervasive and widespread ‘throughout the entirety’ of the Decosters' Wright County egg operations.

“On at least two occasions, Quality Egg officials bribed a USDA inspector to overlook regulatory violations — in one case, paying $300 from the company's petty cash account.”

This could be Ontario where the two largest egg-grading companies have, according to Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspection reports, routinely sold cracked and dirty eggs in Grade A cartons, and had advance notice of CFIA inspections.

There have been allegations that L.H. Gray and Son Ltd. has put outdated egg returns from supermarkets into new packages with new expiry dates.

There is no evidence so far that any CFIA inspectors were bribed, but it does seem they have not been  aggressive on behalf of Canadian consumers.

The egg-grading companies continue to insist in court that they have not engaged in any wrongdoing.