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Halfway into FY 2018, FSIS isn’t seeing much criminal action

The most serious criminal and civil actions the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) can take are not getting much use this year.  FSIS did not pursue any criminal violations during the first three months of 2018, according to the agency’s quarterly enforcement report.

The period is the second quarter of the federal fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017.

John Lonczynski, president of Greenview Meats Inc. in East Hazleton, PA, sentenced Oct. 17, 2017, for the illegal sale of adulterated and misbranded meat products in 2010, remains the only criminal action involving FSIS this year. Lonczynski’s sentence was one year of probation.

An adjudicatory action involving Wells Pork and Beef Slaughter Inc. of Burgaw, NC, was the most severe civil action during the recent quarter. Wells and FSIS agreed to enter into a Consent Decision Order. Under the agreement, FSIS will resume inspections at the facility once it meets humane handling requirements.

On Jan. 23, FSIS filed an administrative complaint to indefinitely suspend inspection services at Wells “based on the establishment’s repetitive and egregious humane handling and slaughter violations…” Under terms of a March 14 consent order, Wells must hire a full-time humane handling coordinator, establish for the humane handling, restraint, and stunning of animals, in addition to maintaining equipment and training management and employees.

Two companies during the quarter, Boston’s Kirin Produce, and Chicago’s MJ Trading Corp. agreed to a civil penalty for violations of the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA). MJ agreed to pay an $840 fine on Jan. 2; Kirin agreed to pay a $560 penalty on Feb. 19. It is not known if those egg violations have any relationship to the current Salmonella Braendenup outbreak. Those illnesses, now involving 35 confirmed cases in nine states,  started around Nov. 16, 2017.

That was the extent of the civil actions for the period. The agency did not execute any seizures or seek any injunctive actions.

The FSIS Office of Investigation, Enforcement, and Audit (OIEA) did issue 300 warning notices during the quarter, about the same number it did during the previous three months. In both periods, the Northeast Region issued the most with 107 and 117.

FSIS took non-judicial administrative actions against 84 companies during the second quarter of FY 2018, which was 10 more than in the first period. Agency administrative actions include Notices of Intended Enforcement Action (NOIEs) suspensions and withholdings. Letters of Warning or voluntary withdrawals close these actions. For the half-year, FSIS took actions against 158 companies and closed 154.

FSIS also sent “Prohibited Activity Notices” to Busseto Foods Inc. in Fresno, CA; Crescent City Meats in Metairie, LA; and Willamette Valley Meat Co. in Portland, OR. The report did not disclose any details about the prohibited activity. Last quarter, FSIS sent out six such notices.

Livestock carcass inspections fell off during the second period to 41.72 million, down from 51.2 million. Poultry inspections were unchanged at 2.3 billion. FSIS condemned 57,911 livestock and just more than 9 million poultry carcasses.

OIEA detentions were also down sharply at 836,694 pounds from over 5 million pounds during the previous three months. During the second quarter, most meat, poultry, and eggs detained were in the Southwest region.

FSIS reports cover the regulatory actions taken by 8,100 federal meat, poultry and egg inspectors at the nation’s 6,400 processing and slaughter establishment. It includes administrative, civil and criminal actions used by front-line inspectors and investigators.

In the most recent report, only 16 of the nation’s largest establishments had NOIEs. Sanitation performance standards or operating procedures, HACCP, and inhumane handling were among the problems.

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