Two men have received suspended six-month prison sentences in the Netherlands for their role in selling Salmonella-contaminated eggs.
The director and a manager of the company involved were also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. Both men, ages 43 and 51, continue to work in the poultry sector.
This company was fined €80,000 ($86,000), less than the €140,000 ($150,400) requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM). The Zwolle court said this was due to the considerable time that had passed since the incident.
The company was found guilty of marketing Salmonella-contaminated eggs when it knew it was harmful to health and hiding this information from customers.
In June 2017, a 22-year-old man died in Germany after multiple organ failure disease due to blood poisoning. He was suffering from a Salmonella infection caused by eating food made from contaminated eggs. Salmonella was reported to be the probable cause of the blood poisoning.
Eight of the 11 people who went to the barbecue in 2017 fell ill with Salmonella infections. The eggs were bought from a supermarket in Germany and came from a Dutch poultry farm in Wouterswoude, which had three units for laying hens.
timeline of events
The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) took samples in the Wouterswoude stables in July 2017. A total of 21 faecal samples were taken in three overshoe stables and 20 tested positive for Salmonella. The analysis showed that there was a close genetic link between the strain found in German patients and the positive samples from Wouterswoude.
In the Netherlands, the registration of Salmonella in poultry farms is done in a database. If a positive test is recorded, a report is automatically sent to the NVWA so that the agency can assess and limit the risk to public health. Poultry farmers should also contact the NVWA in the event of a positive Salmonella result. The court heard that between June 30, 2016 and June 29, 2017, the results of the mandatory Salmonella tests conducted in units 1 and 2 were not recorded in this database.
Two samples taken in house 2 on June 30 and July 13, 2016 were positive for Salmonella. The court said the defendant’s claim that they were removed from the barn was “implausible”. A later test in July 2016 was negative. Several samples were taken in rapid succession, the last being negative. The court said it appeared that the defendant continued to take samples until the result was negative. From July 2016 to early July 2017, no measures were taken to eradicate Salmonella in the affected herd.
The results of the mandatory sampling that should have been carried out in March or April 2017 were missing. One defendant said that he had forgotten to carry out this sampling, but had done so in July 2017. These samples were negative for Salmonella and were recorded in the database.
The court said it was of the opinion that both defendants knew there was Salmonella Enteritidis in stable 2, so they deliberately did not retest. Two shipments of eggs were sent to a company in Germany in May 2017.
Since Salmonella contamination was not recorded, the eggs could be sold as table eggs for human consumption when they should only have been sold as industrial eggs, which are not for people. Table eggs can be sold at a higher price and in a larger market.
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