The former chief operating officer of a rural Michigan farmers’ cooperative has been charged with one felony count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. According to a story published Thursday in the Huron Daily Tribune, JoAnn Rutkowski of the former Thumb Oilseed Producers Cooperative in Ubly, MI, was indicted for causing the introduction of soy flour containing Salmonella into interstate commerce between December 2010 and January 2011, and that she did so “with the intent to defraud and mislead.” Rutkowski pleaded not guilty March 11 before a federal magistrate in Bay City, MI, and is scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court there on July 8. If convicted, she could spend a maximum of three years in prison and pay a $10,000 fine.
The cooperative of 180 members in 10 Michigan counties produced and sold soy flour, soy grits and refined soy oil. After two FDA recalls of its products (in February 2010 and October 2011) for potential Salmonella and a subsequent $7-million lawsuit from a food manufacturer, the cooperative filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2012.