· The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington has entered a consent decree between the FDA and Valley Processing, Inc. and the company’s owner and president, Mary Anne Bliesner, which prevents the company from processing or distributing any juice until it has complied with certain remedial measures set forth in the consent decree. Among other things, the consent decree requires the company to notify FDA of its intent to continue operations and to allow for FDA inspection of its facilities and procedures. The consent decree also requires it to destroy any juice still in its possession. See FDA Press Release.
· This action began in November 2020 when the Department of Justice filed a complaint on behalf of the FDA alleging that Valley Processing’s juice contained inorganic arsenic and patulin toxins at levels that posed a health risk to consumers. In addition, the lawsuit alleged that juice was processed under insanitary conditions in violation of food safety standards. For example, FDA inspections found grape juice concentrate that had been stored outside for several years and was contaminated by filth and mold. Further, these contaminated batches were mixed with newer batches even after the company told FDA that it would discontinue this practice.
· Valley Processing sold it juice processing assets in September 2020 and stated that it had already stopped juice processing by the time of the consent decree. Keller and Heckman will continue to monitor and report on food safety issues.