McDonald’s will no longer accept eggs from Sparboe Farms, one of the country’s biggest egg companies, which had been supplying eggs to the company. Sparboe Farms was the subject of an ABC News investigation broadcast last month on 20/20 and World News with Diane Sawyer. It was cited by the Food and Drug Administration for “significant…and serious violations” in the production of eggs. In one of the most forceful enforcement actions since last year’s salmonella egg outbreak, the FDA issued a company-wide warning letter to Sparboe Farms, the country’s fifth largest egg producer.
Citing “serious” and “significant violations” at five different locations, the FDA cited at least 13 violations of the recently-enacted federal egg rule meant to prevent dangerous salmonella outbreaks. David Acheson, a former FDA food safety chief and now an industry consultant, said: “This is a warning that there is a systemic problem, not just at one barn or one location.” The ABC News broadcast included undercover video taken over the summer inside Sparboe facilities in three states by an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, that shows unsanitary conditions and repeated acts of animal cruelty.
The Sparboe facility in Vincent, Iowa, had produced all eggs used by McDonald’s restaurants west of the Mississippi River. In its statement, McDonald’s said its decision was based on concerns about “the management of Sparboe facility,” and that “McDonald’s expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner.” The Mercy for Animals activist who went undercover to record the video inside Sparboe told ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross:
I saw workers do horrendous things to birds, they were thrown, grabbed by the neck, they’re slammed in and out of cages.
Nathan Runkle, the executive director of Mercy for Animals, said the video shows how health hazards can be linked to large scale, low-cost egg producers, which are referred to as factory farms. He believes these farms, while the model of efficiency, place an emphasis on profit over animal welfare.
The 2010 salmonella outbreak affected more than 1,900 people and was traced to a different Iowa egg producer, Wright County Egg. More than a half-billion eggs had to be destroyed. The episode produced a nationwide health scare over the safety of eggs. Salmonella in eggs is easily killed when both the white and the yolk are cooked thoroughly enough to be hard. Many of those sickened last year ate custard at a California catering hall that had eggs from Wright County Egg. More will be said about this company below.
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