Peruvian chickens can't be trusted.
It's a hard-boiled lesson for a Scott City business owner fighting with the U.S. government over 8,800 pounds of condemned powdered egg white product.
The controversy between Gary L. Haynes, chief executive officer of Creative Compounds, and the U.S. government dates back to August 2003, when the Scott City raw material supplier purchased the egg product from a manufacturer in Peru intending to use it in a line of sports nutrition products.
But then came a snag: According to the U.S. Attorney's office, the imported powdered eggs are in violation of the federal Egg Products Inspection Act. The country of Peru has no continuous inspection system, which means the eggs are prohibited for human consumption in the United States.
Haynes tells a different story, claiming he was given a permit to legally import the product from Peru by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but that agency later discovered such a permit should not have been issued after the shipment had already reached his warehouse in Chaffee, Mo.
"We asked numerous times if there were any other requirements, and we were told numerous times that we just needed this permit," Haynes said. "They allowed the material into the country, and three months later the USDA caught on to the fact that they'd messed up in giving me the permit."
A declaration of support for seizure and condemnation from the USDA holds that Haynes did apply for and receive a special permit in October 2003 to import the product. However, the declaration alleges that he failed to follow the necessary requirements to validate the permit.
The egg whites are currently stored in Haynes' warehouse in Chaffee. Michael Price, assistant U.S. Attorney for the federal court's eastern district of Missouri, said the eggs will eventually be seized by the U.S. Marshals Service in cooperation with the USDA.
"We have to seize it for now so we can make sure it won't go to consumers," Price said.
Price said the uninspected egg whites pose a risk of salmonella poisoning.
USDA spokesman Matt Baun said salmonella is found in eggs and is one of the leading causes of food-borne illnesses.
"The regulations in the U.S. are to safeguard our food supply from that through a thorough inspection process," Baun said.
Ordinarily, if a food product is not from a country with an approved inspections system, such as Peru, that product is detained at the U.S. border, Baun said. In Haynes' case, the egg whites arrived in New York in September 2003 and were transported to Chicago, where they were held until Creative Compounds received the special permit.
Haynes says a USDA investigator arrived at his warehouse last December and began asking questions about the powdered eggs. Haynes was asked to voluntarily destroy the eggs at his own cost, but refused to do so.
"They wouldn't let us export it or sell it," Haynes said. "They're calling it a significant health risk. We asked if it could be tested to see if anything was wrong with it. They refused. All they wanted was to get rid of it."
Earlier this month, Haynes filed a lawsuit against the USDA under the Federal Claims Tort Act, seeking compensation for the egg product.
"We don't have anything to hide. We're a small company trying to make it in Southeast Missouri and here you have the government trying to blame the little guy," Haynes said. "They let that material come through, and they weren't supposed to, regardless of any requirements that were added to the permit."
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