Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Paul Kiecker, Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA-FSIS”), announced today that a federal district court has approved an agreement (“Agreement”) resolving violations by defendants CHUNG SHING MEATS, INC., a/k/a “New Chung Hing Meats, Inc,” WING HONG CHEUNG, MIAO HE FENG, YIU KWAN CHEUNG, and TIAN LUN FENG (collectively, the “defendants”) of a previously entered judicial consent decree requiring defendants to comply with food safety laws at their meat distributorship in Chinatown, Manhattan. Today’s Agreement imposes a $250,000 civil penalty on defendants, which equals the highest civil penalty ever imposed for such violations.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “This Office has zero tolerance for defendants who continue in their ways after entering into consent decrees in which they commit to come into compliance. Such conduct is all the worse where, as here, the consent decree was designed to protect the public health. The significant financial penalty should serve as notice to all defendants that they must live up to their commitments and comply with the law.”
FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker said: “FSIS’s authority to enforce the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act is clear. Our inspection personnel and investigators are on the job daily, verifying that establishments are providing consumers with safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled food. We remain committed to public health, and this civil penalty shows that we will take swift action to protect American consumers.”
The Federal Meat Inspection Act (“FMIA”) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (“PPIA”) protect public health by ensuring the nation’s commercial supply of meat and poultry is safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled and packaged. These requirements allow consumers to have confidence in the safety of their meat and poultry products and permit public health officials to trace problems to their source.
In 2019, this Office filed a civil complaint against defendants, alleging that they routinely prepared and sold meat and poultry products at 19 Catherine Street, New York, New York, without meeting the federal inspection requirements of the FMIA and the PPIA, including by misbranding or repackaging meat and poultry products without the marks of federal inspection. USDA-FSIS had identified FMIA and PPIA violations by the defendants that included selling uninspected or misbranded roast pork, pork chops, roast ducks, beef brisket, chickens, and other beef, poultry, and pork products. In all, USDA-FSIS’s inspections had uncovered over 400 pounds of meat and poultry products sold or offered for sale in violation of the FMIA and PPIA.
Contemporaneously with the 2019 complaint, defendants agreed to resolve the violations by entering into a consent decree that required them to comply with the FMIA and PPIA. Among other things, the consent decree included a permanent injunction prohibiting defendants from “selling, transporting, offering for sale or transportation, or receiving for transportation, any meat, meat food products, poultry, or poultry products required to be inspected and passed by USDA-FSIS that have not been inspected and passed by USDA-FSIS federal inspectors,” and requiring defendants to “prepare and maintain, for each product containing meat, meat food products, poultry, or poultry products, ... business records of all transactions ...” The consent decree included financial penalties that would apply if defendants violated these obligations. On January 7, 2020, the federal district court approved the consent decree, making it a binding court order.
Defendants, however, have repeatedly violated the consent decree. As stated in the Agreement approved by the court today:
- “... Defendants [have] admitted to selling a total of 787.62 pounds of non-federally inspected and misbranded meat and poultry between August 3, 2020, and January 26, 2021, in violation of Paragraph 4(a) of the Consent Decree”
- “... Defendants [have] further admitted that New Chung Hing had generally failed to keep requisite purchase invoices post-dating the Consent Decree, in violation of Paragraph 5 of the Consent Decree”
The Agreement requires defendants to pay $250,000 as a civil penalty for these violations of the Consent Decree. This penalty equals the highest civil penalty ever imposed for violations of a USDA-FSIS consent decree under these food safety statutes, reflecting the gravity of defendants’ violations.
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Mr. Williams thanked the USDA-FSIS for its efforts on this matter.
This case is being handled by the Environmental Protection Unit of the Office’s Civil Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica F. Rosenbaum is in charge of the case.