The felony indictments of Antillio Graniello and Randal Hamby, both associated with Amigos Meat Distributors in Atlanta, topped USDA’s enforcement actions this past quarter.

Hamby died before the case was ready to go to trial, and the government dismissed his charges, but Graniello remains accused of conspiracy to defraud the United States, causing poultry products to become adulterated and misbranded, forging and using an official device and mark without authorization

The trial, which was scheduled to get underway this month, now won’t begin until May because of pre-trial activity and the availability of one of Graniello’s attorneys. The alleged scheme to sell long-expired poultry products with a forged device is told by the government in charging documents.

Also during the quarter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) collected fines for civil penalties from four companies subject to its regulations. FEII Tranding Inc. in Brooklyn, NY, paid the highest civil penalty, a $1,840 fine. Four B. Corp., doing business as Ball’s Food Central Warehouse in Kansas City, paid an $840 fine.

Two others, Batavia Restaurant Supply in Batavia, NY, and GHE Food Supply in Roxbury, MA, respectively paid fines of $680 and $560. The administrative civil penalties were all for violations of the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA).

The quarterly enforcement report is for the Oct. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018, period. It covers the first quarter of the 2019 federal fiscal year. The report includes every non-compliance report federal meat inspectors find while on the job to federal criminal prosecutions and civil actions brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) at USDA’s request.

One of those civil injunctive actions sought during the quarter by USDA was against Kwok Sin Ng, president, and Alice Yan Fung Ng, vice president, both of the George Meat Market, in New York City. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District was asked to permanently enjoin the Ngs from future violations of the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).

The USDA also reports that a long-awaited federal Administrative Law judge decision came down as the department requested. An Oct. 26, 2018, ruling upheld USDA’s decision to summarily and permanently withhold federal inspection services from Westminster Meat in Westminster, VT. A hearing on the issue was held on Nov. 14 through Nov. 17, 2017, but the hearing officer took almost a year to rule.

FSIS’s Office of Investigation, Enforcement, and Audit (OIEA) sent warning letters to 218 regulated establishments during the period. The firms are called out by name in the enforcement report.

USDA meat inspectors, who are on the job at more than 6,200 meat and poultry processing plants, recorded 24,050 instances of non-compliance in the first quarter of FY 2019. Those were recorded as the inspectors went about conducting more than 1.7 million verification checks. That translates into a 98.6 percent “compliance rate.”

Sometimes the regulated establishments don’t agree with such rulings, and during the quarter they filed 283 appeals. At the close, USDA granted 65 appeals, denied 129, and left 47 pending.

OIEA also detained 326,426 pounds of meat, poultry, and eggs in 66 actions that were spread fairly evenly around the country. USDA also opened 62 new administrative actions nationwide.

Just under 25 administrative actions were taken against large establishments during the period. The most serious appears to be one that was closed last Dec. 5 involvign Preferred Freezer Services in Philadelphia. FSIS says the firm violated a regulatory control action by transporting imported produce that was refused entry for re-export without agency authorization. Further details on the incident were not disclosed.

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