Lancaster County Farm Agrees to Consent Decree to Remedy Continued Violations of Food Safety Laws and to Ensure Compliance with Terms of Court-Ordered Permanent Injunction
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that United States District Judge Edward G. Smith has approved a Consent Decree between the United States and Miller’s Organic Farm of Bird-in-Hand, PA. Five months ago, on November 19, 2019, the court permanently enjoined Miller’s and its owner, Amos Miller, from obstructing federal health and safety oversight and from slaughtering, processing, and selling non-federally-inspected, misbranded meat and poultry products to Miller’s nationwide “private membership association” customers. In the Consent Decree, Miller’s acknowledges its recent violations of these prohibitions and agrees to enforceable remedial provisions.
The first of those violations came to light in December 2019, shortly after the injunction began, when investigators from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture went to Miller’s to assess compliance with the injunction. They found approximately 2,000 pounds of fresh meat carcasses and products that Miller’s had recently slaughtered without federal inspection, in violation of the injunction. After FSIS “detained” these articles (by tagging them so that they could not be used, altered, moved, or sold in commerce while under detention), Miller’s voluntarily destroyed them.
FSIS investigators found more violations of the court’s permanent injunction in January 2020. Under the injunction, Miller’s had 60 days to sell, exclusively to its buyers’ club members, approximately 34,062 pounds of frozen meat-and-poultry-product inventory that was already in existence when the court entered the November 19, 2019 injunction. On January 22, 2020, just after that deadline had passed, the investigators found the inventory still at Miller’s, with Mr. Miller contending that he had sold all of it to only one of his buyers’ club members who runs both a Miller’s website and a Florida food Co-Op. FSIS maintained that Miller’s violated the injunction by failing timely to sell and ship the inventory directly to individual members in consumer quantities (rather than to a single member in bulk).
On that date, the investigators also observed and detained approximately 2,100 pounds of non-federally-inspected, freshly slaughtered beef carcasses. Two days later, when FSIS investigators returned to Miller’s to detain the 34,062 pounds of frozen inventory, Mr. Miller violated the injunction by initially denying them access to his facilities.
On February 10, 2020, the United States filed a separate action to seize and condemn the detained frozen inventory and fresh meat carcasses. The U.S. Marshals Service then legally seized those meat and poultry articles but left them in place (frozen and stored) at Miller’s pending a condemnation hearing.
Under the Consent Decree, Miller’s acknowledges that it has violated the injunction and agrees: (1) to pay the financial sanction ($2,500) that the court’s injunction order allows for denying FSIS access to Miller’s; (2) either to adhere to procedures for distributing the frozen inventory directly to Miller’s members in consumer quantities or to destroy the inventory; (3) to denature or destroy the fresh carcass meat, if Miller’s cannot sell it to a pet food manufacturer; and (4) to cease internet advertising of “fresh” or “unfrozen” meat and poultry products unless and until such offers for sale comply with federal and state laws. Meanwhile, the Decree contemplates a stay of the condemnation action while Miller’s has an opportunity to distribute and dispose of the articles under FSIS oversight.
FSIS is responsible for ensuring that commercially sold meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. The Consent Decree and the condemnation action are part of the United States’ continuing efforts to bring Miller’s into compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.
“This Office takes very seriously these violations of the court’s injunction order and is prepared to seek maximum penalties should violations continue. We are entering into today’s Consent Decree to give Miller’s an opportunity to remedy its non-compliance, to show that it is finally willing to follow food safety law requirements, to stop hindering FSIS from carrying out its food safety mission, and to operate within the rule of law that applies to all other similar businesses,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, when Americans have heightened concern about food safety and availability, my Office will remain vigilant in its efforts to ensure that our nation’s food safety laws are followed so that the public’s health is not further put at risk by allowing potentially unsafe food to enter our food supply.”
“FSIS inspection of meat, poultry, and processed egg products provides U.S. consumers with confidence in the safety of the products they serve their families,” said FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker. “FSIS will continue to exercise its authority to implement and enforce food safety regulations to protect the American public and maintain the integrity of the USDA mark of inspection.”
The injunction action is captioned United States of America v. Miller’s Organic Farm and Amos Miller, EDPA No. 19-cv-1435. The condemnation action is captioned United States of America v. 2,100 Pounds of Meat Carcasses, Parts of Carcasses, and Meat Food Products, and 34,062 Pounds of Meat Food Products and Poultry Products, EDPA No. 20-757.
The United States Attorney’s Office received valuable assistance on these cases from FSIS’s Compliance and Investigations Division, Philadelphia Regional Office; USDA’s Office of the General Counsel; and FSIS’s Enforcement and Litigation Division, Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit. The injunction action and condemnation action were handled by Assistant United States Attorney Gerald Sullivan.