New Jersey Cheese Company And President Charged With Shipping Tainted Product
Lebanon Cheese Company, of Lebanon, NJ and the company’s president, Joseph G. Lotito, 42, of Annandale, NJ, were charged today by Information with causing the interstate shipment of adulterated ricotta cheese, in violation of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. According to the information, the defendants sold ricotta impastata cheese that was unfit for human consumption because the cheese was manufactured from truckloads of raw milk that had been condemned by Pennsylvania dairy processors for failing screening tests for the presence of beta lactum antibiotics.
According to the information, the FDA required that all milk and milk fluid products be screened for six beta lactum drug residues: Ampicillin, Amoxicillin, Cephapirin, Ceftiofur, Cloxacillin, and Penicillin. These beta lactum antibiotics were frequently used by dairy farmers to treat disease in lactating dairy cows and were the most likely to cause a residue in milk. Beta lactum drug screening of milk was performed for two main reasons: first, to reduce the likelihood of a person suffering an allergic or anaphylactic reaction to the beta lactum antibiotics; and second, to mitigate increased tolerance to antibiotic drugs in humans. By regulation, FDA established tolerances for each of these beta lactum drugs for negligible residues in milk and in the uncooked edible tissues of cattle.
It is alleged that from in or about January, 2008 or earlier to in or about July, 2009, D.A. Landis Trucking, Inc. (charged separately) hauled milk from approximately 700 individual dairy farms in Southeastern Pennsylvania to large dairy processors. At least 20 of these loads allegedly tested positive for beta lactum antibiotics using FDA-approved screening tests and were condemned and ordered to be destroyed by the dairy processor. The information alleges that dairy processors, based on information from D.A. Landis Trucking, Inc., reported to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that the condemned milk was dumped at a local farmer's manure pit in Willow Street, Pennsylvania. In truth, however, it is alleged that the drivers of the rejected loads were told by Dean Landis, the owner of the company (also charged separately) to return the condemned loads to the trucking yard, where they were pumped into another truck. The information charges that D.A. Landis Trucking, Inc. drivers then delivered the condemned loads of milk to defendant Joseph Lotito at defendant Lebanon Cheese Company in Lebanon, New Jersey. Defendant Joseph Lotito allegedly purchased the condemned milk for approximately $4 per hundred pounds, where the going rate for raw milk at that time ranged from approximately $12 to $23 per hundred pounds, depending on the intended end use. The drivers and the owner of the trucking company were allegedly paid in cash.
Defendants Joseph Lotito and Lebanon Cheese Company allegedly used the milk in the manufacture of ricotta cheese, which was then distributed to customers.
If convicted, defendant Lebanon Cheese Company faces a maximum possible sentence of five years probation, a fine of $200,000 and a special assessment of $125. If convicted, defendant Joseph Lotito faces a maximum possible sentence of one year imprisonment, one year of supervised release, a $100,000 fine, and a special assessment of $25.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John J. Pease.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, EASTERN DISTRICTof PENNSYLVANIA
Suite 1250, 615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
PATTY HARTMAN, Media Contact, 215-861-8525