Fresh Updates on Food Safety: Indictment Delayed for Meat Fraud Case

The latest USDA Quarterly Enforcement Report has revealed that a criminal felony indictment for meat fraud is facing delays due to ongoing talks. The accused individuals, Michael and Joel Quattrucci, along with their company, Rhode Island Beef and Veal, were indicted by a grand jury on October 30, 2020. The charges involve fraudulently using the official mark of inspection on beef without the required authorization from the Secretary of Agriculture. Additionally, they knowingly represented beef as inspected and passed under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, when it was not. Furthermore, they were found to have defrauded customers by providing beef that did not comply with the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s safety standards.

Though the trial was originally scheduled for June, it has been called off earlier this week. The defense has requested a continuance of the trial calendar call for sixty days, which has been consented to by the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island. The defense also mentioned that substantive discussions are underway to resolve the matter, along with efforts to address pending administrative issues relevant to the case.

Michael Quattrucci, the president and treasurer of Rhode Island Beef and Veal Inc., and Joel Quattrucci, the vice president and secretary of the corporation, are the defendants in the case. Federal Judge Mary S. McElroy is assigned to preside over the trial proceedings.

The USDA’s Quarterly Enforcement Report does not highlight any other criminal activities. However, a civil complaint has been filed against Rainbow Food Group Inc., based in Little Falls, NJ, and its president, Robert Kalkan. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for New Jersey, seeks a permanent injunction against Kalkan to prevent future violations of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. The allegations state that the company has caused misbranding of meat and poultry products, as well as selling misbranded and non-federally inspected products, and failing to maintain required records.

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The USDA’s Quarterly Inspection Report covers the second quarter of the federal fiscal year, from January 1 to March 31, 2021. The enforcement activities of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service primarily involve continuous inspections at federally regulated establishments.

The report explains that each time inspection program personnel identify noncompliance with FSIS regulations, a Noncompliance Record (NR) is completed. The NR informs the establishment of the noncompliance and advises them to take corrective action to prevent recurrence. The report further states that NRs reflect various determinations, ranging from non-food safety issues to severe breakdowns in food safety controls. Repeated noncompliance that results in contaminated products may lead to withdrawal of inspection services.

During the second quarter, FSIS documented 23,212 instances of noncompliance. Out of 1,798,737 procedures verified by FSIS inspection personnel, a compliance rate of 98.7% was achieved.

The report also mentions that administrative appeals for noncompliance findings are allowed. In the second quarter, there were 353 appeals, with 75 cases granted, 115 cases denied, and 75 cases settled by FSIS with modifications. Additionally, 98 cases were pending at the end of the period.

Livestock and poultry slaughter remained at relatively high levels during the second quarter. Livestock slaughter was just under 42 million, slightly lower than the first quarter’s 43.3 million. The number of birds slaughtered, 2.370 billion, was almost identical to the previous quarter’s 2.36 billion.

For the second quarter, FSIS took administrative action against only 11 “large establishments”. Among the violations reported, Swiftpork Company in Ottumwa, IA, was cited twice for inhumane treatment, while Smithfield Fresh Meats in Smithfield, VA, faced suspension for violating regulatory controls. Inhumane treatment violations were also reported at PPL Food in Augusta, GA, JBS in Souderton, PA, and Smithfield Fresh Meat Corp. in Milan, MO. Other violations primarily related to sanitation issues.

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