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

  • Sri Lanka deploys army to distribute fuel during strike

    Economic CTV News
    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's government deployed army troops on Wednesday to restore fuel distribution crippled during a strike launched by trade unions who want to stop leases of oil tanks to India and China. Source
  • Loblaw expects higher minimum wage rules and Quebec changes will hurt profits

    Economic CTV News
    BRAMPTON, Ont. -- Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) says minimum wage increases in Ontario and Alberta and health care reform in Quebec are expected to hurt its bottom line. The grocery and drug store operator says the minimum wage increases announced in Ontario and Alberta are expected to increase its labour expenses by about $190 million in 2018. Source
  • World shares mostly higher as markets await U.S. Fed's decision

    Economic CTV News
    HONG KONG -- World stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday, lifted by another record day on Wall Street and buoyant oil prices. Investors were keeping a cautious eye on the Fed's upcoming interest rate decision. Source
  • EU court says deal cannot be concluded as is; Canada passenger data sharing breaches privacy

    Economic CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- The European Union's top court says in an advisory opinion that a deal between the EU and Canada on sharing airline passenger data breaches citizens' privacy and cannot be concluded in its current form. Source
  • Oil jumps as U.S. producers pull back, inventories drop

    Economic CBC News
    In the three-year-long drama that is the oil market, there was some good news this week, with signs that both U.S. shale producers and OPEC may be exercising some discipline. The U.S. oil rig count dropped two of the past four weeks, Anadarko Petroleum announced in its earnings report that it is cutting back on spending for the rest of 2017, and oil services company Halliburton said for the second time in recent weeks that its customers were tapping the brakes. Source
  • Celgene Corp. to pay $280M to settle cancer drug fraud suit

    Economic CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Celgene Corp. has agreed to pay $280 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit alleging the pharmaceutical company committed fraud promoting a drug with a notorious history that was re-purposed to treat leprosy and another therapy for unapproved cancer treatments, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday. Source
  • Trump weighs replacing Fed Chair Yellen with ex-Goldman exec

    Economic CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he's considering either re-nominating Janet Yellen for a second term as Fed chair or replacing her with someone else, possibly Gary Cohn, who leads his National Economic Council. Source
  • Home Capital repays $2B line of credit from Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway

    Economic CBC News
    Home Capital Group, the Toronto-based alternative mortgage lender that was on the verge of collapse earlier this year, says it has repaid a $2-billion line of credit from Berkshire Hathaway. The company was given the financial lifeline last month by Berkshire Hathaway, which is headed by Warren Buffett, as it was trying to regain investor confidence following a run on deposits from customers. Source
  • Trudeau insists NAFTA must have dispute mechanism despite U.S. demands it be eliminated

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Any renewal of the North American Free Trade Agreement will have to include a fair process to resolve disputes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday. In the summary of its objectives in the renegotiation of NAFTA, the White House signalled last week that it wants to entirely eliminate the chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism. Source
  • CN Rail beats profit forecasts on higher revenuess

    Economic CBC News
    Canadian National Railway beat analyst expectations as its profits grew 20 per cent to $1.03 billion in the second quarter on record quarterly revenues. The Montreal-based railway earned $1.36 per diluted share, up from $1.10 a year earlier when it posted $858 million in net income. Source