Guilty pleas entered in case of wood pulp in grated cheese

PITTSBURGH -- A woman and two western Pennsylvania cheese firms her family controls have pleaded guilty to mislabeling grated parmesan and romano cheese that contained only other cheeses and filler made from wood pulp.

See Full Article

A federal judge didn't immediately set a sentencing date for Michelle Myrter, 44, of Harmony, and her Slippery Rock companies, International Packing and Universal Cheese and Drying.

Under the plea, each company will forfeit $500,000 and Myrter's attorney has previously said she'll receive probation instead of up to one year in federal prison called for by the statute.

Myrter pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the introduction of misbranded and adulterated food into interstate commerce. The section of the law relevant to her case holds a company official responsible whether they knew about the wrongdoing.

The Food and Drug Administration has said the cheese was sold through Target stores and 3,400 stores supplied by Associated Wholesale Grocers of Kansas City, Kansas, according to a report obtained from the agency Bloomberg News.

Despite that, FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher, told The Associated Press in an email on Friday that the agency doesn't "have distribution information (in terms of brands, where sold, etc.). That is the company's proprietary information."

"Consumers have a right to expect that products they purchase are what they purport to be," Sucher said in a statement. "In this case, products that were labeled as containing 100% Parmesan or 100% Romano cheese contained no Parmesan or Romano cheese."

Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh would also not discuss where the cheese was sold.

The cheese labeled and shipped by the companies that pleaded guilty was made by family-owned Castle Cheese, which wasn't charged. Myrter is vice-president of Castle and an officer in the other firms.

Stephen Stallings, a former federal prosecutor and Pittsburgh-based defence attorney for Myrter and the companies, didn't immediately comment after the pleas.

Myrter pleaded guilty on behalf of the companies to conspiracy to misbrand and adulterate the products and money laundering.

According to Bloomberg's story on the FDA report, Castle's Market Pantry brand or the Always Save and Best Choice branded parmesan cheeses were made with a combination of Swiss, mozzarella and white cheddar cheeses, along with cellulose, which is made with wood pulp. Up to 4 per cent cellulose is allowed as a safe additive in such cheeses, according to standards set forth by the FDA.

The Market Pantry cheese was sold at Target stores and the other brands through Associated Wholesale Grocers, Bloomberg reported, citing the FDA.

But Target spokeswoman Joanna Hjelmeland said in an email Friday that "Castle Cheese has never been an authorized Target vendor. There are no Castle Cheese produced or packed Market Pantry parmesan cheese products on Target's shelves."

Associated Wholesale didn't immediately return calls and emails for comment Friday.

As part of its report, Bloomberg had several brands of grated cheese tested for cellulose, and several contained more than 4 per cent.

That's prompted a federal class-action lawsuit in New York against Wal-Mart. The FDA found Wal-Mart's Great Value cheese had 7.8 per cent filler, and the lawsuit contends it has as much as 10 per cent. Wal-Mart has said it takes the allegations seriously and will investigate and respond to the lawsuit.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Uber to lose its licence to operate in London

    Economic CTV News
    London's transport authority said Friday it won't renew Uber's license to operate in the British capital, arguing that it demonstrates a lack of corporate responsibility with implications in public safety and security. Transport for London says the car-hailing app was not “fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license. Source
  • Mastermind Toys expanding even as Toys 'R' Us flounders

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Jon Levy's favourite playthings as a Toronto child growing up in the 1960s and 1970s included Lego blocks and fort-building kits -- classics that still fly off the shelves of his Mastermind Toy stores today. Source
  • 'You have to upsell them': Marketplace exposes how dealerships push maintenance you don't need

    Economic CBC News
    An undercover Marketplace investigation has exposed evidence of what many car owners have long suspected: some dealerships sell unnecessary service and push regular maintenance much sooner than the manufacturer recommends. Using hidden cameras and bait cars that were inspected by independent expert mechanics,Marketplace discovered some common upselling techniques used by service advisers. Source
  • L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt dies at 94

    Economic CTV News
    PARIS -- Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oreal cosmetics heiress and the world’s richest woman, has died at her home in a chic Parisian suburb. She was 94. Bettencourt’s daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, said in a written statement Thursday that her mother "left peacefully" overnight in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Source
  • Asian stocks drop on North Korea concerns

    Economic CTV News
    HONG KONG - Most Asian stock markets fell Friday as investors turned cautious following new U.S. sanctions targeting North Korea and a China credit rating downgrade. KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.4 per cent to 20,273.26 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.7 per cent to 2,389.83. Source
  • Canadian retailers see potential NAFTA change as threat

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - A Canadian looking for a high-end men's shoe from can buy it from a major online retailer in the U.S. or get it for 25 per cent less at the bustling Eaton Centre mall in downtown Toronto. Source
  • California hits Gatorade in court for 'anti-water' videogame

    Economic CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gatorade has agreed not to make disparaging comments about water as part of a $300,000 settlement reached Thursday with California over allegations it misleadingly portrayed water's benefits in a cellphone game where users refuel Olympic runner Usain Bolt. Source
  • WestJet signs code-share agreement with Hong Kong Airlines

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY -- WestJet Airlines Ltd. (TSX:WJA) says it has signed a code-share agreement with Hong Kong Airlines that will allow the Asian carrier to sell tickets on WestJet flights using its own designator codes. The agreement builds on an existing interline agreement put in place earlier this year. Source
  • 'Small number' of RBC credit card holders affected in Equifax breach, bank says

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- RBC says "a small number" of its credit-card clients' personal information may have been affected in the massive Equifax security breach. Bank spokesperson A.J. Goodman said in an email that RBC has not yet identified any impact to clients and is continuing to investigate the issue. Source
  • New deadline established for competition to design navy's new warships

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Defence companies and shipbuilders competing to design Canada's new fleet of warships have been given until Nov. 17 to submit their proposals. It's the third such deadline for the design competition, which is the most recent -- and arguably most politically sensitive -- phase in the entire $60-billion plan to build 15 warships. Source