With seven processing plants, 33 production sites, and retail and wholesale customers across 26 states, Sparboe Farms touts itself as the “fifth largest shell egg producer and marketer in the United States.” But the tides may be turning for Sparboe, as it’s just lost one of its largest customers. Following multiple FDA citations, and with an ABC News investigation set to air today on 20/20 and World News with Diane Sawyer, McDonald’s has issued a statement cutting ties with the egg producer.
Yesterday the FDA issued a company-wide warning letter to Sparboe Farms, citing health violations at five different facilities that ranged from “serious” to “significant” in severity. Violations noted by the FDA include (but are not limited to) failure to perform environmental testing before inducing molting, unacceptable rodent and fly activity, failure to clear debris that harbored pests, and failure to keep wild birds and cats out of poultry houses. Samples taken by the FDA also turned up the presence of Salmonella enteriditis in the poultry houses. “We found that the [five facilities inspected] have serious violations of the Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation regulation,” reads the FDA report.
Furthermore, undercover footage from the facility taken by activist group Mercy for Animals (which will be shown on the ABC specials) turned up everything from neglect (dead and decomposing hens left in those cages to rot for days while the living lay eggs alongside them) to outright abuse (shots of workers cramming live chickens into pockets and tossing chicks against cage doors).
Today, McDonald’s Vice President of Sustainability Bob Langert released the following statement:
McDonald's expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner.
Based upon recent information, we have informed our direct supplier, Cargill, that we will no longer accept eggs from its supplier, Sparboe. This decision is based on McDonald's and Cargill's concern regarding the management of Sparboe's facilities.
This is not a food safety issue for our menu items. We can assure our customers that eggs in our entire supply chain meet McDonald's high standards for quality and safety.
Our primary commitment is to our customers, and we will continue serving safe, high-quality food without disruption.
Mercy for Animals executive director Nathan Runkle, on the other hand, told ABC that that McDonald's actions taken only after everyone else has discovered the truth is "too little, too late." Still, as they say: better late than never.