The owner and the manager of a poultry farm in Lunteren, Gelderland were convicted of endangering public health by selling eggs contaminated with salmonella. When issuing its ruling on Thursday, the District Court of Zwolle sentenced 51-year-old company director Bertus V. and 43-year-old manager Sije van der V. to six months in prison, and 200 hours of community service.
The case came to light after a group of people employed by a different company in Germany got together for a company barbecue in June 2017. Eight employees fell ill, and a 22-year-old worker eventually died from his sickness. All eight were found to have eaten eggs contaminated with salmonella.
The man’s death led to an investigation at the Wouterswoude location of the Lunteren poultry company. The salmonella contamination found there matched samples taken from the victims in Germany. The eggs that were acquired for that barbecue came from the Gelderland company. According to the Public Prosecution Service, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) knew nothing about this contamination because the positive samples were concealed on behalf of the company.
On a form from the company, the laboratory was asked not to report infections to the NVWA, the investigation showed. Van der V. denied ever concealing a contamination. He had no interest in doing so, either. “I wouldn’t get a cent of extra pay for it,” he told the court.
Bertus V. did not keep track of the infections at his company’s four locations, he claimed. “The boys kept track of that very well,” he told the judges during a hearing several weeks ago. Both men said they were not aware of the positive samples.
The court ruled that the two must have known about the contamination. In July 2016, there was already a salmonella contamination at the poultry farm and no specific measures were taken after that. According to the court, there was still a salmonella issue when the eggs were delivered to a German company in May 2017. The court found it implausible that a positive test from the summer of 2016 came from a sample from outside their facility. The court noticed that several samples were taken in quick succession, and only the last one turned out to be negative. The court suspects that the higher-than-normal number of samples were taken until they could achieve a negative result.
The prosecutor blamed the suspects for being so careless with a bacterial infection that has the potential to kill people, but the suspects were not charged in the death of the 22-year-old man. The court did not address this further in its judgment. The sentence imposed was equal to the demand from the Public Prosecution Service. The poultry company was also fined 80,000 euros, lower than the recommended fine of 140,000 euros. The court took into account the considerable time that has passed since the discovery of the contamination.
The laboratory from Duiven involved in the case was not prosecuted. A settlement was reached with them, the prosecutor previously said.