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.


Latest Economic News

  • Samsung profits plunge 17 per cent after Galaxy Note 7 recall

    Economic CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- Samsung Electronics says its third quarter profit has plunged 17 per cent as Galaxy Note 7 recalls nearly wiped out its mobile profit. The South Korean tech giant said Thursday that its July-September net income was 4.4 trillion won ($3.9 billion), down from 5.3 trillion won a year earlier. Source
  • Canadian government warns U.S. senators of potential lumber dispute consequences

    Economic CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The Canadian government is warning U.S. politicians about the consequences of a possible new softwood-lumber dispute. A letter from International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and David MacNaughton, the Canadian ambassador to Washington, went out today to two dozen senators -- with a copy to President Barack Obama. Source
  • #GrabYourWallet boycott targets Trump family on the retail front

    Economic CBC News
    An eye-catching shoe piques your interest and draws you in. Upon closer inspection, the label leaps out at you — Ivanka Trump, in simple gold lettering — and you recoil as if stung. That's the kind of reaction behind a growing boycott of the products emblazoned with the brand of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as well as the popular, working women-targeted fashion line from his eldest daughter — who has arguably been his most influential and effective family member during the…
  • Tesla reports first quarterly profit in more than three years

    Economic CBC News
    Tesla Motors Inc. reported its first quarterly net profit in more than three years on Wednesday as record deliveries helped to offset rising expenses related to next year's roll-out of the company's mass-market Model 3 sedan. Source
  • First Nations filing lawsuit against Pacific NorthWest LNG project

    Economic CTV News
    Catherine McKenna, front right, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, speaks while flanked by Jim Carr, from left to right, Minister of Natural Resources, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, after the federal government announced approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, at the Sea Island Coast Guard Base, in Richmond, B.C. Source
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal doomed, ex-PM Brian Mulroney predicts

    Economic CBC News
    Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is doomed to fail because of hostility in the U.S. Congress. Mulroney made the prediction today after taking part in a ceremony to formally announce plans for the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at his alma mater, St. Source
  • 'Muted' Canadian wage hikes seen next year: Conference Board

    Economic CBC News
    Canadian workers in non-union jobs can expect 'muted" wage hikes next year, with the lowest increases going to workers in Alberta and in the oil and gas industry, the Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday in a new report. Source
  • Apple struggling to keep up with demand for iPhone 7 Plus

    Economic CBC News
    Apple Inc's shares slipped as much as four per cent after the company said it was struggling to keep up with demand for its large-screen, higher-margin iPhone 7 Plus, potentially reducing sales and profits in the Christmas shopping period. Source
  • Global gender gap list puts Canada at 35th

    Economic CBC News
    Canada has come 35th — sandwiched between Luxembourg and Cape Verde — in the latest World Economic Forum annual report on gender-based disparities around the world. Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden are the top four countries on the WEF's Global Gender Gap index, which measures differences between men and women in economics, education, health and political empowerment among 144 countries. Source
  • New York's MoMA acquires original set of emojis

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Back in the day, before cars could drive themselves and phones could send stickers and animations, a Japanese phone company released a set of 176 emojis. The year was 1999 and the tiny 12-by-12 pixel designs -- smiley faces, hearts of the intact and broken variety, cats, and so on -- were mainly popular in Japan. Source