Austin “Jack” DeCoster and Peter DeCoster were sentenced April 13, 2015 to three months in prison for introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce after eggs from their Iowa farms were linked to a 2010 national salmonella outbreak which sickened at least 1,900 people.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett required the father and son to complete a year of probation following prison and pay $100,000 each. The DeCosters’s former company, Quality Egg LLC, was fined nearly $6.8 million.
More than 1,900 people across the country reported getting sick from Salmonella enteritidis linked to tainted eggs supplied by Quality Egg. The companies recalled 550 million eggs nationwide.
Quality Egg pleaded guilty in June 2014 to bribing public officials and misbranding eggs to make them appear fresher.
The DeCosters’s sentences — especially the prison time — were viewed as a warning to other food producers.
Jack DeCoster, 82, of Turner, Maine, and Peter DeCoster, 52, of Clarion, are now trying to get out of their jail time. They filed an appeal April 27, 2015, asking the U.S. District Court of Appeals 8th Circuit to remove incarceration from their sentence.
“They’re arguing that, based upon the type of offense, any sentence of jail time is not appropriate,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said last week.
Pro-business groups, including the Cato Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers, filed briefs in support of the DeCosters, arguing executives shouldn’t serve jail time for this type of crime.
“If executives can be imprisoned for criminal violations of strict liability laws by virtue of the position they hold within a company, the United States economy would suffer,” attorneys for Cato and the manufacturing association argued. “Executive business decisions would be motivated less by good business principles and more by fear of possible future prison sentences.”
The 8th Circuit heard oral arguments in the appeal March 17 in St. Paul, Minn., and the parties are now waiting for a decision.