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Stefan Pohlmann Sentenced in Germany over Salmonella Outbreaks


Stefan Pohlmann, son of Anton Pohlmann was found guilty as the responsible manager of an egg production enterprise responsible for a serious Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) outbreak in 2014. He was sentenced to one year and nine months, suspended, after being detained for eight months awaiting trial.  He was found guilty in190 cases of commercial fraud relating to distribution of eggs known to have been infected with SE and negligent bodily harm in 26 cases.  He was fined $375,000 and his company Bayern-Ei (‘Bavarian Egg’) was ordered to pay $1.27 million in compensation.  The 2014 SE outbreak occurred in 2014 and involved cases in Austria, France, Germany and the U.K.  In a subsequent outbreak of salmonellosis during the summer of 2019 Salmonella was traced back to the Aiterhofen Farm operated by the Pohlmann family.  In these cases, Salmonella was detected on the surface of eggs that were not washed as is the practice in most nations in the EU.


Anton Pohlmann (left) and his son Stefan (right)

Prison for the Animal torturer

As part of his plea bargain, Pohlmann will no longer be eligible to manage commercial livestock in Germany.  This penalty was imposed on his father Anton in 1996 when evidence of gross deviations from welfare standards was documented on farms he operated.


For perspective relating to the U.S., Anton Pohlmann established egg production operations in Ohio in 1980 when he purchased land near Croton. By 1984 his operations had 56 layer houses, 21 pullet houses, four egg packing plants, a hatchery, feed mill and support facilities for five million hens.  Eventually his Buckeye holdings included complexes in Marseilles, Goshen and Mt.Victory, OH. with a combined total of 11 million hens.


In September 2000, a tornado ripped through the Croton complex destroying 12 barns housing about one million hens.  The cleanup program was delayed and both Buckeye Egg Farm and the industry were subject to adverse publicity as hens trapped in cages died of starvation and dehydration. Depopulation was impeded by the danger of removing hens from damaged cages in unstable buildings.


The Pohlmann operations were characterized by a series of complaints, lawsuits and citations relating to contamination of streams and groundwater with manure in addition to odor and fly nuisance. These problems resulted in increasing intervention by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.  A major contamination episode occurred in April 1999 from the LaRue Complex causing an extensive fish kill.


Facing punitive action by the State of Ohio involving revocation of permits and adverse judgments on numerous nuisance lawsuits, Pohlmann sold his interest in the Ohio operations to a company with Orland Bethel as a front man for Jack DeCoster in 2003.  Following the revelation that DeCoster was the de facto owner and taking into account the problems experienced over ten years the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture recommended closure of the entire enterprise. Following a series of contempt of court charges and noncompliance with environmental regulations, Buckeye was ordered to implement a shutdown program involving two barns each week followed by divestment.


The Ohio complexes originally established by Pohlmann have been extensively reconstructed and now function in compliance with environmental and welfare regulations under family management as Versova Holdings LLC. This company formed in 2016 involves equity participation among the Dean, Henning and Boomsma families with farms in Iowa and Ohio. Their origins extend back to 1978 with the establishment of the Center Fresh Group with Central Valley Farms and Trillium Farms combining to form Versova.