Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Consent decree clamps down, but lets Midamar try Halal again

Iowa’s Halal exporting company where for five years workers erased mandatory USDA Establishment numbers on products to hide the source of orders destined for Malaysia and Indonesia can continue in business.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture came close to shutting down Midamar Corp. of Cedar Rapids, IA, which exports 200 Halal certified meat and poultry products to markets serving 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. But Richard Murphy, the assistant U.S. District Attorney for Northern Iowa who prosecuted the defendants, persuaded USDA to give the 42-year-old company one more chance.

Midamar_406x250A 16-page consent decree, which Friday became part of the sentencing order in he case, makes it clear USDA’s could have dropped the hammer on Midamar. Its future now depends on whether it will adhere to a stringent list of conditions.

Jalel Aossey will have to step down as Midamar Corp. president. He must report soon for a year and day in federal prison.

Chief Judge Linda R. Reade for the U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa, asked the Bureau of Prisons to find Jalel Aossey some type of vocational training because the consent decree with USDA requires him to divest himself “both operationally and financially” from any kind of involvement with Midamar.

The 40-year old Jalel Aossey was sentenced Friday on his guilty plea to the felony of conspiracy involving the interstate sale of misbranded meat. In addition to the jail time, Judge Reade imposed a $30,000 fine.

The judge imposed three years’ probation for his brother Yahya Nasser Aossey, 45, for his guilty pleas to two misdemeanors for the sale and transport of misbranded meat. He was also fined $5,000.

Yahya Aossey is an officer and director of Midamar Corp., and USDA is allowing him to continue in those positions.

Under the consent decree adopted by Judge Reade’s order, both Midamar’s 74-year old founder William B. Aossey Jr. and Jalel Aossey “are permanently disassociated from (Midamar) as a partner, officer, owner, or director.”

William B. Aossey Jr. was sentenced last month to two years in federal prison and three years probation along with a $60,000 personal fine for his role in the scheme. It involved illegally filling Halal beef orders by having an employee erase USDA Establishment numbers on beef produced at a plant not approved for exporting to certain southeast Asian countries where Midamar shipments were going.

The elder Aossey was convicted last July in a jury trial where he was found guilty of 15 of 19 counts charged. His sons and companies reached plea agreements with the government after the trial, which saw prosecutors drop all but one or two charges in a 92-count indictment.

Midamar Corp. and its Halal certifying agency known as Islamic Services of America (ISA) were fined $20,000 and $60,000 , respectfully, and Judge Readeimposed a $600,000 forfeit order to be shared by the two entities.

Under the consent degree, which was signed by Jalel Aossey, Yahya Aossey and USDA attorneys, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will hold “in abeyance” for five years an order withdrawing “voluntary reimbursable inspection, identification and verification services (VRIS)” from Midamar Corp.

The order is an ace in the hole for the government, which can play the card to stop Midamar from exporting its products if the company does not meet the requirements of the consent decree.

According to the consent decree, Jalel Aossey may transfer his ownership to an irrevocable trust for the benefit of his family, but the Midamar entity that goes forward cannot take any kind of direction from him. The company has to take action to prevent either the founder or the outgoing president from providing direction, operational control or financial ties or influence over any Midamar officers, partners, owners “successors, affiliates and assigns.”

The company also must name someone other than Yahya Nasser Aossey to the position of “corporate ethics officer,” who will be responsible for employee training “in food safety principles and ethics.”

The consent decree also calls for the appointment of an independent plant manager with responsibilities for all “day to day” operations and the development of a “Standards of Conduct” policy and program.

Further, Midamar must develop procedures to ensure that all of its documentation is complete and accurate, including export certificates. In addition to management and employee training, the consent decree includes very specific instructions about record keeping, third-party audits and responding to FSIS.

The 42-year old Midamar is the oldest Halal exporting company of its kind in the U.S.   The VRIS could be pulled by FSIS if the Cedar Rapids company violations the consent decree. The company does have the right to a hearing before the FSIS administrator.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

© Food Safety News