In collaboration with EUROPOL, Spain's environmental protection service has seized 45 tons of tuna illegally treated with color-enhancing substances. The tuna was frozen and acceptable for canned use, but four individuals were recoloring the fish and selling it as fresh, according to the investigators. The alleged perpetrators face up to four years in prison for "endangering public health."
Christopher Lischewski, president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in California and charged with one count of felony price-fixing for his alleged role in a scheme to fix the price of canned and packaged seafood sold in the United States. U.S. v. Lischewski, No. 18-0203 (N.D. Cal., filed May 16, 2018). The felony charge alleges that Lischewski and co-conspirators engaged in "an unreasonable restraint of interstate commerce" in violation of the Sherman Act; the maximum penalties include up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of $1 million. Lischewski's indictment follows guilty pleas on similar charges from Bumble Bee and its former senior vice president.
One day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued draft guidance on proposals to expedite product warnings and recalls, FDA and other health officials testified before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations about the results of an audit faulting the agency for the failure of the recall process to ensure food safety. Conducted by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the audit identified a two-month average delay between when FDA notified companies of issues and when companies took action. During the hearing, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) reportedly displayed a snack container he had brought to a 2009 hearing on a nationwide Salmonella outbreak traced to products manufactured by the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA). PCA executives are serving federal prison terms for their roles in the outbreak, and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit…
President Donald Trump has commuted the 27-year sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, a former kosher meatpacking plant executive convicted of 86 counts of federal bank fraud and money laundering. After Rubashkin was sentenced in 2009, politicians, law enforcement officials and legal experts argued that his case was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct, but the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and sentencing in 2011. Rubashkin and his family members were initially accused of a range of charges, including conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants for profit and child labor law violations.
Greek officials have reportedly charged seven people with criminal fraud and money laundering related to the sale of adulterated olive oil. The group allegedly added green dyes to sunflower seed oil then sold it off-market as extra-virgin olive oil. Most of the oil was sold in Greece or exported to Germany and other EU countries using invoices that were later destroyed. The Greek police reportedly became aware of the sale of adulterated oil when olive oil producers told the Hellenic Food Authority that their producer codes were being used on packages and products they did not sell.
The chairman of French wine merchant Raphaël Michel has been indicted on charges that he masterminded a scheme to label nearly 4 million cases of ordinary table wine as Rhône Valley wines, including Châteaunneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône. Guillaume Ryckwaert has been charged with fraud, deception and violations of consumer and tax codes. Several other company executives were taken into custody in Marseilles but released without charges. Agents of the French National Customs Judicial Service discovered the alleged scheme during a company audit in 2016. See The Times, August 4, 2017.
Three men have been convicted and sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to sell at least 30 metric tons of horse meat as beef. The owner of a Danish supplier was sentenced to 3.5 years, while the company’s accountant received a suspended sentence. In addition, the owner of a London meat processor was given a 4.5- year sentence. The fraud was discovered in 2013, when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found horse meat in a shipment detained for inspection in Northern Ireland. According to The Guardian, inspectors found microchips for three horses previously owned as pets or riding horses. The scheme reportedly may have involved as many as 50,000 horses from across Europe. Additional details about the scheme appear in Issues 560 and 641 of this Update. Issue 643
Europol has announced the arrests of 66 people following a four-year investigation into an organized-crime group accused of selling horsemeat "not suitable for consumption" as beef products. The investigation began in 2013 after Irish authorities found products sold as beef burgers that contained horsemeat and led to a Dutch man in Spain alleged to be the leader of the scheme. According to Europol's July 16, 2017, press release, "Investigators concluded that the Spanish element of this organisation was a small part of the whole European structure controlled by the Dutch suspect." Issue 641
A California federal court has dismissed Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims against tomato-processing companies Los Gatos and Ingomar but will allow a bribery claim to proceed. Morning Star Packing Co. v. SK Foods, L.P., No. 9-0208 (E.D. Cal., order entered June 14, 2017). The Morning Star Packing Co. brought a RICO and bribery lawsuit against several competitors in 2009, alleging they conspired to fix prices, rig bids and avoid competing for the same customers. The court dismissed Morning Star's RICO claims against Ingomar and Los Gatos, finding that the company could not show that the competitors committed two injurious predicate acts. Similar claims against other competitors—SK Foods and Intramark—were not at issue in the ruling and will proceed to trial. The court refused to grant summary judgment on Morning Star’s bribery allegations against Ingomar. “Viewing this evidence in the light most favorable to Morning Star, and drawing all…
The attorney general of New Jersey has announced an “unprecedented” $2-million fine in a settlement with a craft beer and spirit wholesaler accused of trade practice violations. Div. of Alcoholic Beverage Control v. Hunterdon Brewing Co. LLC, No. L0002 (N.J. Dep't of Law Public Safety, consent order filed May 31, 2017). New Jersey alleged that Hunterdon Brewing sold tap systems at below-market prices then overcharged those customers by including “miscellaneous draft charges” on invoices. Further, the company allegedly ignored state credit regulations and entered into discriminatory, “unequal financing” terms of sales with its customers. Hunterdon has agreed to pay the fine in four $500,000 installments over the next 12 months; $250,000 of the final payment will be waived if compliance audits show no further violations. “Fair market prices exist for a reason,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino in a June 12, 2017, press release. “Consumers suffer when these laws and…