“McDonald’s expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner,” said Bob Langert McDonald’s vice president, sustainability, in a statement McDonald’s sent to MEATPOULTRY.com. “Based upon recent information, we have informed our direct supplier, Cargill, that we are no longer accepting eggs from its supplier, Sparboe. This decision is based on McDonald's and Cargill’s concern regarding the management of Sparboe’s facilities.”
The FDA issued a company-wide warning letter to Sparboe Farms, in what’s being called one of the most forceful enforcement actions since last year's salmonella egg outbreak. The agency cited at least 13 violations of the recently enacted federal egg rule meant to prevent dangerous salmonella outbreaks, identifying "serious" and "significant violations" at five locations.
Tonight’s ABC News broadcast will include undercover video allegedly taken over the summer inside Sparboe facilities in three states by an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, that appears to show unsanitary conditions and repeated acts of animal cruelty, ABC News claims. Until now, the Vincent, Iowa, Sparboe facility had produced all eggs used by McDonald's restaurants west of the Mississippi River.
McDonald's said in a statement its decision was based on concerns about "the management of Sparboe facilities."
“This is not a food-safety issue for our menu items,” Langert added. “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.”
The activist who went undercover to record a 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."
Any employee seen on the tape abusing chickens were fired, Sparboe executives told Ross. Ken Klippen, Sparboe's director of government relations, said his company has a zero-tolerance policy.
Regarding the undercover videos, McDonald’s Langert called the behavior on tape disturbing and completely unacceptable. “McDonald’s wants to assure our customers that we demand humane treatment of animals by our suppliers,” he added. “We take this responsibility – along with our customers’ trust – very seriously. It’s important to note that the most alarming actions on video did not occur at Sparboe’s Vincent, Iowa, facility that supplies McDonald’s. Nonetheless, our extremely high standards for our suppliers prohibit this conduct.
“McDonald’s cares about how our food is sourced and we have a long history of action and commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our supply chain,” Langert continued. “We are a founding member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply [CSES] and are participating in an unprecedented three-year study that compares traditional, cage-free, and enriched laying hen housing systems on a commercial scale. For our customers, that means we’re working with scientists and suppliers to determine the most optimal hen housing method considering impacts on hen health and welfare, food safety, environment and other important factors.”
During a one-hour guided tour of the Sparboe facility in Vincent, Iowa, Klippen told Ross the Sparboe's facilities are state-of-the-art. Sparboe has never had one single egg or chicken detected with Salmonella, said Klippen, who added "there was no cause for any enforcement action."