McDonald's and Target Pull Sparboe Farms' Eggs

| by Michael Allen

McDonald's says it "will no longer accept" eggs from one of the country's biggest egg companies, Sparboe Farms, which was the subject of an ABC News investigation broadcast Friday on '20/20' and 'World News with Diane Sawyer.'

Sparboe Farms was cited Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration for "significant…and serious violations" in the production of eggs.

Late Friday, another major retailer, Target, told ABC News it was in the process of removing the egg from their stores after "having been made aware of the unacceptable conditions in the company's egg laying facilities."

Citing "serious" and "significant violations" at five different locations, the FDA cited at least 13 violations of the recently enacted federal egg rule meant to prevent dangerous salmonella outbreaks.

"This is a warning that there is a systemic problem, not just at one barn or one location," said former FDA food safety chief David Acheson, now an industry consultant.

Until today, the Sparboe facility in Vincent, Iowa, had produced all eggs used by McDonald's restaurants west of the Mississippi River.

In its statement, McDonald's said its decision was based on concerns about "the management of Sparboe facilities."

"McDonald's expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner," the company said in a statement released to ABC News overnight.

But Mercy for Animals executive director Nathan Runkle said today that McDonald's action was "too little, too late."

"This investigation illustrates that McDonald's lacks the basic policies and oversight to prevent blatant animal abuse at its egg suppliers," Runkle told ABC News.

The Mercy for Animals activist who went undercover to record the 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."

"They're the model of efficiency but they place an emphasis on profit over animal welfare," said Runkle, who says he and his members eat no animal products because of the animal cruelty they have seen.

Sparboe executives told ABC News that the employees seen on the tape abusing the chickens were all fired.

"We have a zero tolerance policy," said Ken Klippen, Sparboe's director of government relations. "People who violate that policy, we take that very seriously."