In brief: Egg industry giant, company plead guilty in salmonella outbreak
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A self-made titan in the egg industry, his son and the Iowa company they ran pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal food safety violations stemming from a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands in 2010.
Austin “Jack” DeCoster, 79, and his son, Peter DeCoster, 51, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett will later decide their sentences, which could be up to one year in jail, fines of $100,000 apiece and additional restitution for victims.
Their company, Quality Egg LLC, pleaded guilty to charges of bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, selling misbranded food and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. The company has agreed to pay a $6.8 million fine under a plea deal that Bennett could accept or reject.
The salmonella outbreak prompted a recall of 550 million eggs by Quality Egg and another Iowa company that used its feed and chickens, and led to the collapse of the vast egg production empire that DeCoster built from modest beginnings in Maine. Plea agreements filed Monday say the company sold eggs that were tainted with salmonella from January 2010 until August, when the recalls were issued. Federal prosecutors said they found no evidence that the DeCosters were aware they were selling tainted products, but that as corporate officers, they can be held legally responsible.
Sbarro emerges from bankruptcy, moves its pizza headquarters
NEW YORK – Pizza chain Sbarro says it has exited bankruptcy protection and is moving its headquarters from New York to Ohio.
According to court filings, a judge approved the company’s reorganization plan on May 19, and that plan took effect Monday.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in March, one month after it closed 182 U.S. locations. Sbarro now has about 800 total restaurants.
Factories see rise in orders again, signaling new footing after winter
WASHINGTON – Orders to U.S. factories rose for a third consecutive month in April, adding to evidence that manufacturing is regaining momentum after a harsh winter.
Orders increased 0.7 percent in April, pushed higher by a surge in demand for military hardware, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That followed a 1.5 percent increase in March and a 1.7 percent climb in February.
The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent in the January-March quarter, reflecting winter storms that disrupted business activity. But in the current quarter, analysts estimate GDP will advance at an annual rate as high as 3.8 percent.
Home prices increase in April, but at lowest rate in 14 months
WASHINGTON – U.S. home prices rose in April compared with a year earlier, but the increase was the smallest annual gain in 14 months. Price gains have slowed this year as sales have faltered.
Data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices rose 10.5 percent in April from 12 months earlier. That is a healthy gain, but it is down from March’s 11.1 percent increase and February’s 12.2 percent rise.
On a month-to-month basis, April prices rose 2.1 percent. But CoreLogic’s monthly figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal patterns, such as warmer spring weather.
Nationwide, home prices are still 14.3 percent below the peak they reached in April 2006, when the housing bubble began to deflate. But in 23 states, prices are at or within 10 percent of their previous peaks, according to CoreLogic’s figures.
Artificial ingredients in food will be gone by 2016, Panera says
NEW YORK – Panera says it will remove artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives from its food by 2016, a reflection of the growing distaste people are showing for such ingredients.
The chain of bakery cafes, which has about 1,800 U.S. locations, is making the pledge as part of a “Food Policy” it unveiled Tuesday that outlines its commitment to “clean” and “simple” ingredients.