‘Defendants as dirty as their restaurants’ arrested for bribing monitors over food violations

Aidan Gardiner of DNA Info reports three restaurateurs were arrested this week for bribing city monitors to not penalize them for violations including flies, handling food without gloves and keeping a lizard in a fish tank, officials said.

bribeMorie Kabba of The Bronx was arrested Monday while Jonathan Niranjan and Mohammad Safi, who run establishments in Queens, were arrested Tuesday, according to Department of Investigation officials. They all face bribery charges and up to seven years behind bars, officials said.

“DOI’s investigation found these defendants were as dirty as their restaurants,” said Mark Peters, the DOI commissioner.

“In New York City, you can’t clean up a dirty restaurant with a bribe. DOI will continue to pursue unscrupulous business owners and operators who try to corrupt city employees for their own interests,” Peters said.

In each investigation, the men first bribed inspectors with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who refused the money, but reported it to DOI which then sent undercover officers to each restaurant.

The undercover inspectors, spotted uncovered garbage cans, multiple flies and food residue on the floor of Jagana Family Kennedy Fried Chicken at 1375 Boston Road in Morrisania in October and reported it to Kabba, 42, officials said.

Kabba in turn gave the investigator $160, officials said.

Kabba was arraigned Monday and pleaded not guilty, officials said. He was released and due back in court on Jan. 17, 2017, officials said.

Similarly, a health inspector spotted an aquarium with a lizard inside Amazura, a music venue at 91-12 144th Place in Jamaica, and told Niranjan, 28, he’d have to remove it, officials said. Niranjan then told the inspector he forgot something in the bathroom, prompting the inspector to return inside and find “a wad of cash” on top of the sink, officials said.

An undercover inspector then visited the establishment in August and spotted a broken sink faucet, many flies and food handlers not using gloves, officials said. Niranjan then gave the undercover $300 in cash to “save him on some of the violations,” officials said.

Undercover investigators in May also spotted uncovered garbage cans, a broken sink faucet and staff touching food with bare hands inside Farm Fried N Curry Chicken at 120-20 Merrick Blvd. in South Jamaica, officials said.

 

1 dead, 4 sick in 2014: Miami cheese producer jailed for 15 months

On August 4, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. voluntarily recalled quesito casero (fresh curd) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

oasis-listeria-oct_-14On October 6, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility.

Whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and four persons who became ill during June through October 2014.

These five ill persons were reported from four states: Georgia (1), New York (1), Tennessee (2), and Texas (1).

Four of the five ill persons were hospitalized. One death was reported in Tennessee. Three illnesses were related to a pregnancy – one of these was diagnosed in a newborn.

All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. Two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.

According to Andrea Torres of ABC Channel 10, after making promises to the feds, Christian Rivas knew he was distributing cheese with listeria and did so anyway.

Rivas was in federal prison Nov. 11, 2016 and faced 15 moths in prison after federal prosecutors armed with the results of CDC tests and FDA inspections were ready to show consumers were “fraudulently led to believe” the cheese was safe to eat when it wasn’t. 

Before the criminal case, authorities recalled 15 of their “Lacteos Santa Martha ” products targeting Central American migrants in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. The list included the “Queso Seco Olanchano,” the “Queso Seco Hondureno,” the  “Queso Cuzcatlan,” and the “Crema Guatemalteca.”

Rivas plead guilty to charges that he acted with an “intent to defraud and mislead, delivered cheese processed and packed at the Oasis facility into interstate commerce that was adulterated,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola sentenced Rivas to 15 months in prison.  

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Justin Green, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Miami Field Office, announced the sentencing

“We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who put the public’s health at risk by allowing contaminated foods to enter the U.S. marketplace,” Green said. 

Beware jailhouse nachos

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports on October 12, 2015, a county health department notified the Wyoming Department of Health of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness among residents and staff members at a local correctional facility.

jail-nachos-2The majority of ill persons reported onset of symptoms within 1–3 hours after eating lunch served at the facility cafeteria at noon on October 11. Residents and staff members reported that tortilla chips served at the lunch tasted and smelled like chemicals. The Wyoming Department of Health and county health department personnel conducted case-control studies to identify the outbreak source.

Consuming lunch at the facility on October 11 was highly associated with illness; multivariate logistic regression analysis found that tortilla chips were the only food item associated with illness. Hexanal and peroxide, markers for rancidity, were detected in tortilla chips and composite food samples from the lunch. No infectious agent was detected in human stool specimens or food samples. Extensive testing of lunch items did not identify any unusual chemical. Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence implicated rancid tortilla chips as the most likely source of illness.

This outbreak serves as a reminder to consider alternative food testing methods during outbreaks of unusual gastrointestinal illness when typical foodborne pathogens are not identified. For interpretation of alternative food testing results, samples of each type of food not suspected to be contaminated are needed to serve as controls.

Gastrointestinal illness associated with rancid tortilla chips at a correctional facility — Wyoming, 2015

CDC MMWR

Tiffany Lupcho et al.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6542a4.htm?s_cid=mm6542a4_e

Hong Kong woman sentenced to 9 years for smuggling meth in tins of pork

A Hong Kong woman was sentenced to over nine years in prison for smuggling $1 million worth of methamphetamine or ‘P’ mailed to her in pork cans.

meth.canned.pork.aug.16Sui Man ‘Christine’ Ip was sentenced to nine years and three months in the Auckland High Court on Monday for importing a class A controlled drug.

Customs found three cans marked as ‘stewed pork ribs’ were in fact filled with just over one kilogram of meth in total.

Ip arrived in New Zealand in January and moved into a flat the same day.

Two weeks later, a package of assorted food items mailed from Hong Kong was x-rayed by the Ministry for Primary Industries and referred to Customs as the cans’ contents didn’t look like food.

Customs investigators linked the package to Ip and arrested her at Auckland International Airport in early March when she tried to leave the country.

She will have to serve at least half her jail-term before facing deportation.

Maurice O’Brien, Customs Investigations Manager, said it was not uncommon for offenders to come into the country solely to ‘catch’ and re-deliver drugs.

131 sick with Salmonella in South Carolina jail

A gastrointestinal illness has impacted a large group of inmates at the Lexington County Detention Center.

lexington.co.jailWednesday, Captain Adam Myrick said 120 inmates have been treated for the illness in the past two days.

Myrick said that number Thursday is now at 131 inmates.

Myrick noted that epidemiologists with DHEC are investing the illness to determine what it is and how it is spreading.

Jim Beasley with DHEC said initial tests conducted by DHEC have found salmonella.

The inmate population at the detention center was 762 as of Wednesday.

22 sentenced for selling 5,000 kg poisoned dog meat in China

The Indian Express reports that 22 people were sentenced to up to eight years in prison for making and selling more than 5,000 kilograms of tainted dog sadie.dog.powellmeat in China’s Jiangsu Province.

Prosecutors in Rugao city have investigated 14 cases regarding tainted food, which involved over 5,000 kilograms of poisoned dog meat, 11,000 poisoned birds and 500 kilograms of hazardous chemicals.

Police detained Lao Gan (pseudonym) who purchased 7,000 kilogrammes of poisoned dog meat before tracking down another five people.

They also bought half of the meat and sold it to restaurants in the outskirts of cities in Anhui, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, state-run Global Times reported.

Local police also caught eight men for killing and selling over 11,000 ‘poisoned birds’, most of which were sold to restaurants in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces.

The sentences came as China faced criticism both at home and abroad for not banning the annual dog meat festival in Yulin last week where 10,000 dogs were reported to have been slaughtered.

Prison inmate who got sick from eating bad chicken gets $350 in damages, court says

A federal prison inmate who sued for $130,000 in damages after he became sick from eating chicken tainted with salmonella will have to be content with the $350 granted him by a U.S. Middle District judge.

Eugene K. Brinson is among more than 500 inmates who sued the U.S. government following a June 2011 salmonella outbreak at the federal penitentiary at Canaan in northeastern Pennsylvania. Most of those lawsuits were settled for a total of around $700,000.

Brinson appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, challenging the $350 in damages district Judge Matthew W. Brann awarded in his case. A panel of the appeals court upheld Brann’s decision in a recent ruling.

‘Dead man’s tray’ Clostridium perfringens likely cause of Fargo jail outbreak

Three weeks after an apparent foodborne illness outbreak at the Cass County Jail, the North Dakota Department of Health determined what likely made about 110 inmates sick over a two-day stretch in mid-December.

fargo.margAlthough an official cause is still pending, State Epidemiologist Laura Cronquist says testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to Clostridium perfringens bacteria as the culprit, based on stool samples from several inmates.

Clostridium perfringens is commonly found on raw meat and poultry, according to the CDC, and infection can occur when foods are prepared in large quantities and kept warm for a long time before serving.

“It’s really common,” Cronquist said, adding, “It’s not really surprising that it’s an institution that this happened in.”

Last month’s outbreak was the second major outbreak at the Cass County Jail in four years. In the latest case, about 40 percent of the jail’s 282 inmates had symptoms including diarrhea and nausea. No inmates were hospitalized, and jail staff said the illness was short-lived.

Clostridium perfringens was also the likely cause of a larger illness outbreak at the jail in November 2011, when 90 percent of the 184 inmates inmates came down with diarrhea and vomiting. In that case, the organism was also found inside sick inmates, but couldn’t be confirmed in the most likely food source, the chili macaroni served that day.

The Cass County Jail freezes meal samples daily to save in the event of illness in a process referred to in the corrections industry as a “dead man’s tray.” Cronquist said she’s working with the CDC to determine which of those specific foods will be tested.

ND: Outbreak of illness at Cass jail sickens more than 100 inmates overnight

Fargo Public health and law enforcement officials are investigating an outbreak of illness that sickened more than 100 inmates at the Cass County Jail overnight Tuesday.

fargo1The first inmates started reporting mild symptoms like upset stomachs and diarrhea, said Cass County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Briggeman.

By 6 Tuesday morning, 110 of the jail’s 282 inmates had reported the same symptoms.

Jail staff treated all inmates on site, and none has reported their symptoms getting worse, Briggeman said.

The sheriff’s office has reported the outbreak to the North Dakota Department of Corrections, and is investigating the outbreak along with officials from Fargo Cass Public Health.

Go to jail. Go directly to jail

Ron Doering, counsel in the Ottawa offices of Gowlings, and a past president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, writes in his monthly Food in Canada column:           

Chance_go_to_jailAfter warrants were issued for their arrest, the two food company executives turned themselves in to the police and then they were led into the court for their arraignment in shackles.

The Jensen brothers faced a possible six years in jail for the misdemeanor of failing to ensure the quality and safety of the food product they were selling. They did not go to jail primarily because they pled guilty. Last January they were sentenced to six months home detention and five years probation, and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution.

The evidence was clear: neither of the corporate executives had any idea that their food product was adulterated or that they had done anything wrong. What’s going on here?

In this and several other recent cases, the United States Department of Justice has made it clear that it has adopted a new enforcement policy to aggressively use criminal prosecution against food company executives. Citing the serious public health consequences of foodborne illness, with 48 million Americans sickened every year and an estimated 3,000 deaths, Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery has publicly warned corporate officers that they were now going to be held personally and criminally responsible if their companies failed to adequately control the quality of their food products. Delery has emphasized that introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce is a strict liability offence, meaning a company violates the law when it distributes an adulterated food whether or not it intended to do so.

In adopting this new aggressive policy the prosecutors have resurrected the old and mostly dormant 1975 U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v Park, which held that corporate executives could be prosecuted criminally even for unintended violations of food laws by their companies. “This apparent revival of the Park Doctrine is a huge concern for the industry” asserts U.S. food law attorneys McGuireWoods.

This dramatic change in U.S. food law is evident in many recent cases. For example, in 2014 Iowa egg company executives pled guilty in a deal that included prison time and millions of dollars in fines after an outbreak that had sickened almost 2,000 people in 2010. In May 2015, arising from a tainted peanut butter recall in 2006, prosecutors extracted a settlement with the food giant ConAgra Foods that included a fine of $11.2 million, the highest criminal fine in U.S. food safety history.

This rising threat of criminal prosecution for food industry executives is real and has not gone unnoticed by food companies and their lawyers. Washington lawyer Gary Jay Kushner, a partner with Hogan Lovells and one of America’s leading food law lawyers, told me recently that “this is a serious development for food company executives. We’re seeing this increasing trend in a lot of cases.”

The most recent case that has garnered so much media attention involves the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) in which an investigation revealed that its adulterated product had led to over 700 reported infections and at least nine deaths. After a six-week trial, a federal jury found PCA president Stewart Parnell and two other company executives guilty of violating several food safety laws and obstruction of justice. Because company employees falsified lab results and made several false and misleading statements to FDA investigators, prosecutors are seeking life sentences for PCA executives.

Criminal prosecution of company executives is not new in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency regularly brings charges in the criminal courts. What we haven’t seen yet in this country is major prosecutions of executives after recalls or prosecutors seeking jail terms for company executives who were unaware of any violation, though I know that this has been seriously considered in at least a couple of instances.

There is also another important distinction between Canada and the U.S. We have a longstanding, if narrowly defined, defence of due diligence in cases of strict liability offences; a defence that deserves to be better known, and the subject of next month’s column.