LITCHFIELD, Minn., Nov. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Sparboe Farms announced today that it is creating a Sustainability Task Force that is charged with reviewing all current company practices in the areas of food safety, animal care and sustainability. The task force will also develop additional best practices in those areas for all of the company's production and processing facilities.
Beth Sparboe Schnell, president and owner of Sparboe Farms, said she decided to take the additional step of creating a Sustainability Task Force "so that we can make our company better."
She also reassured consumers that "there is absolutely no food safety concern or any recall of any Sparboe Farms products. Sparboe Farms eggs and egg products are safe to eat."
During the press conference, Schnell addressed a November 18 ABC News 20/20 segment depicting animal mistreatment at a Sparboe Farms facility and a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter regarding violations of FDA regulations.
"All of us at Sparboe Farms were shocked and deeply disturbed when we saw the video shot in our barns that depicted animal mistreatment," Schnell said. "At Sparboe Farms, we expect our employees to provide the best care possible and follow our animal care code of conduct."
She added, "Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable, inconsistent with our values as farmers, and violate our animal care policies and procedures."
Immediately upon learning of the video the company launched a comprehensive investigation which identified four employees who were complicit in the disturbing activity, including at least one animal activist.
"Because we have zero tolerance for animal abuse, the four have been terminated. A production manager also has been relieved of his duties. Our investigation is ongoing and any additional employees involved will be held accountable," Schnell said.
She pointed out the employees in question were trained on proper bird handling methods by Sparboe's veterinarian. They signed the company's Animal Care Code of Conduct confirming they would abide by Sparboe's policies.
"We also engaged an independent auditor from Iowa State University to conduct a third-party animal welfare audit, which confirmed that we are in full compliance with our animal welfare policies," Schnell said. "In fact, we have successfully passed three additional third party audits in the last ten days."
Schnell pointed out that "for 57 years, the Sparboe family and hundreds of dedicated employees have worked hard every day to properly care for our chickens so they will produce well for our loyal customers who, in turn, will provide families with safe, nutritious, affordable eggs. That's why we were so sickened that the wrongful acts of a handful of bad actors would raise questions about Sparboe Farms' earned reputation and overshadow the good work of the vast majority of our employees who strive to do the right thing every day."
Schnell said that all of the company's bird-handling employees have been re-trained, and that "we are going to increase our animal care, food safety and compliance staff."
Regarding the FDA violations, Schnell said that earlier this year Sparboe responded to the FDA with corrective actions within 15 days of each inspection. In light of the recent warning letter advising the company that additional corrective steps are needed, "Our team will continue to work with the FDA to successfully address the remaining concerns immediately," Schnell said.
Schnell underscored that "at no time has there been any health risk from Sparboe Farms eggs. Not a single egg has ever tested positive for Salmonella. So the bottom line for consumers is that Sparboe Farms eggs and egg products are safe to eat."
Sparboe Farms is dedicated to "continuous improvement in every area of our business because we want to truly be 'best in class' for the benefit of customers and consumers. And we are committed to always doing what's right and conducting business in a socially responsible manner," Schnell added.