On Thursday, the Eastern District of Washington issued a Consent Decree of Permanent Injunction in a lawsuit filed by the United States against juice producer Valley Processing, Inc. and its owner, who were accused of selling juice in unsanitary conditions. The company, which provides juice to schools for lunch programs, was ordered to destroy all of its products within 270 days of the decree and update the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its progress.
The lawsuit, which was filed in November, accused the company of producing and selling contaminated juice products and reported that the FDA had found dead and live animals within the facility and 10 year-old grape juice concentrate being stored outside, which was contaminated with mold. The company, which provides almost 3 million servings of apple juice to schools and sells pear and grape juice in California and other states, was accused of not controlling molds that grow on apples and pears and re-using barrels with sludge and old juice at the bottom.
The decree ruled that the defendants violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by distributing fruit juice and fruit juice concentrate that contained inorganic arsenic and patulin, was “prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions,” and could be harmful to human health. According to the consent decree, the defendants had already ceased processing juice before the decree was entered.
“Food processors who do not comply with FDA regulations can put consumers’ health and well-being in danger. With this consent decree, we’re taking action to protect Americans, including children in this case, from consuming foods that have been processed in violation of the law,” said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs in an FDA press release on Friday. “The FDA is fully committed to taking appropriate measures against those who disregard food safety standards and distribute adulterated food to the public.”
Valley Processing was ordered to not receive, manufacture, distribute, or process any food until it goes through specific steps to clean the facility, including hiring a sanitation expert and an expert to develop a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan. The consent decree further requires the defendants to notify the FDA in writing at least 90 days before they intend to resume operations and allow for the FDA to inspect their facilities. Valley Processing cannot begin producing juice again until they have received written notice from the FDA allowing them to continue.
Thursday’s decree also permits the FDA to inspect the defendants’ facilities without notice and the defendants will be required to provide any requested information to the FDA. If the defendants are found to be violating the decree, or the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in another way, the FDA can order them to cease manufacturing, recall food, submit samples, or take other corrective action. Valley Processing will be required to pay for the costs of FDA supervision, as well as $2,000 for each violation of the decree and $250 for each day the violation continues.
The defendants are represented by Hogan Lovells and the United States is represented by the Department of Justice and counsel with the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA.