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

  • Alberta Energy Regulator names companies falling behind on pipeline safety

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY - The Alberta Energy Regulator is making it easier for the public to see which oil and gas companies are falling behind on pipeline safety. The regulator launched a new pipeline reporting website Tuesday that lays out several pipeline safety ratings for all operators in the province over the past two years. Source
  • Wal-Mart keeps working to make inroads against Amazon

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- The nation's largest retailer keeps working to make headway against the largest online seller. Wal-Mart drew more shoppers to its namesake stores in the United States and its online sales soared 29 per cent in the fourth quarter, which covers the critical holiday shopping season. Source
  • Verizon forces Yahoo to cut sale price over hacking scandal

    Economic Toronto Sun
    SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo is taking a $350 million hit on its previously announced $4.8 billion sale to Verizon in a concession for security lapses that exposed personal information stored in more than 1 billion Yahoo user accounts. Source
  • Seven-year-old girl's job application to Google catches CEO's eye

    Economic CTV News
    For seven-year-old Chloe Bridgewater, it’s never too early to get started on building your career. The girl from Hereford, U.K. penned a job application to Google CEO Sundar Pichai after seeing images of Google offices outfitted with bean bag chairs, go karts and slides. Source
  • French leftist lawmakers take EU-Canada free trade deal to court

    Economic CBC News
    More than 100 French left-wing lawmakers decided on Tuesday to appeal to the country's Constitutional Council to block a contentious free trade deal between the European Union and Canada. Supporters of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) say it will boost economic growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Source
  • Feds may face 'rough' NAFTA renegotiation: former PM Mulroney

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says the federal government may face a "rough negotiation" when it comes to NAFTA, but he believes Canada will nonetheless emerge with strong ties to the U.S. and Mexico. Source
  • Efforts to revise NAFTA will include all three member countries: Freeland

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- All three NAFTA members will be at the table whenever talks to revise the trade deal get underway, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday amid concerns that Mexico could be given short shrift. Source
  • Wells Fargo fires 4 senior managers in sales scandal inquiry

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Wells Fargo's board of directors said it is firing four senior managers as part of its investigation into the bank's sales practices scandal. The board said Tuesday the four are Claudia Anderson, the former community bank chief risk officer, Pamela Conboy, the lead regional president in Arizona, Shelly Freeman, the former regional president in Los Angeles, and Matthew Raphaelson, head of the community bank's strategy and initiatives. Source
  • Yahoo salvages Verizon deal with $350M US discount

    Economic CBC News
    ?Yahoo is taking a $350 million US hit on its previously announced $4.8 billion US sale to Verizon in a concession for security lapses that exposed personal information stored in more than 1 billion Yahoo user accounts. Source
  • Fast food facts: Popeyes and Restaurant Brands International

    Economic CTV News
    OAKVILLE, Ont. -- Restaurant Brands International is set to acquire the Popeyes fried chicken chain under a deal announced Tuesday worth US$1.8 billion. Here's a quick look at the two fast-food companies: Popeyes: Founded: New Orleans, 1972 Source