Criminal Prosecution Possibilities Hover for Food Producers

Food producers may continue to be the targets of federal criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2015 and it is likely that much of 2015 will also be spent adjudicating the criminal cases that were filed in 2014, according to an article published in Food Safety News. Although the DOJ usually prevents disclosure about a case until charges are actually filed, there are some indications of what is to come, and some cases are awaiting trial.

Tennessee Salmonella Outbreak

It’s very possible that charges may be filed in a case involving the salmonella outbreak in Tennessee. The case involved contaminated Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butters. The DOJ began contacting outbreak victims under the Crime Victims Rights Act in August of 2014. Additionally, ConAgra Foods Inc. disclosed in its 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that a federal criminal misdemeanor stemming from the eight-year-old tainted peanut-butter incident remains possible. At least 425 people in 44 states were made sick from the peanut butter, and one in five of them required hospital care, but none died.

Contaminated Cattle

Jury selection will begin on July 16, 2015, in San Francisco for the case against former Rancho Feeding Corporation co-owner Jesse J. (Babe) Amaral Jr. He will be tried alone in what may be one of the most watched food safety cases of 2015. Other defendants in the federal criminal conspiracy case will not be involved, because the individuals have already reached plea deals with the government on charges that they conspired to sell cattle known to have eye cancers and other problems for human consumption. They will, however, most likely be called as witnesses in the case against Jesse Amaral, Jr.

Iowa’s Halal Beef Cases

Another big trial slated for 2015 involves the Miramar Corporation, Islamic Services of America (ISA), and charges against brothers Jalel Farris Aossey and Yahya Nasser Aossey involving conspiracy, forgery, wire fraud and money-laundering stemming from alleged misrepresentation of Halal beef shipments that were sent to south Asia. That trial is scheduled for February 17, 2015. The brothers are the sons of Miramar and ISA founder William B. Aossey Jr., who is scheduled for a separate trial on March 9, 2015. The trials will take place in U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The charges are not strictly food-safety related, but they involve violations of several food safety regulations.