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Waffle-maker Eggo fined $85,000 over toxic gas release at California factory

The fine stems from a January 2021 pipe leak at a San Jose factory that released 3,400 pounds of anhydrous ammonia into the neighborhood.
A store employee stocks boxes of Eggo frozen waffles in Tallahassee, Fla.
A store employee stocks boxes of Eggo frozen waffles in Tallahassee, Fla., on Nov. 18, 2009.Phil Coale / AP file

Waffle-maker Eggo has been fined $85,000 after it was convicted of negligently releasing toxic ammonia from a factory in San Jose, California, prosecutors announced.

The release took place Jan. 22, 2021, when a subcontractor on a scissor lift “damaged a pipe that began leaking anhydrous ammonia,” a refrigerant used to freeze waffles produced at the factory, the Santa Clara district attorney’s office said. 

Prosecutors said anhydrous ammonia is a toxic gas that can cause “severe injury or death.” 

Eggo managers failed to call 911 until over an hour had passed, believing they had stopped the leak. 

During the delay, 3,400 pounds of anhydrous ammonia escaped the factory into the neighborhood, prompting residents to shelter in place for several hours until the leak was stopped, prosecutors said. No injuries were reported, the district attorney's office said.

Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner said in a statement Wednesday: "At Kellogg, the safety of our workers and the environment are top priorities. Thankfully, no one was injured in last year’s ammonia incident.

"Since that time, we’ve made a number of significant enhancements to our processes and protocols to ensure we have the safest possible environment for our employees and neighbors," Bahner added.

Eggo was criminally charged with negligently discharging an air contaminant, failing to immediately report the release, providing inadequate training to contractors and failing to implement an adequate emergency action plan.

The company was sentenced Friday. 

“Public safety and the environment are threatened with every passing minute in these cases,” Deputy District Attorney Jason Bussey said. “When companies fail to immediately report a release, they face serious consequences.”

Eggo has cooperated with regulatory authorities since the incident, and it is upgrading its systems and procedures to prevent future gas releases, prosecutors said.