May 23, 2012: Miami Food Supplier Sentenced for Distributing Misbranded Food
Food and Drug Administration
Office of Criminal Investigations
U.S. Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
May 23, 2012
United States Attorney
Southern District of Florida
Contact: Jose A. Bonau
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and David W. Bourne, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, Miami Field Office, announced that Antwerp, LLC., a Miami-based supplier of organic fruit and vegetable products, was sentenced today before the U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke, for introducing, and causing the introduction into interstate commerce, of misbranded food. Antwerp was sentenced to three (3) years of probation, a $50,000 criminal fine, and was ordered to develop and implement a food distribution compliance plan.
Antwerp, which is the successor corporation of Pure Nature Organics, LLC (PNO), was convicted of a felony violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, Title 21, United States Code, Sections 331(a), 333(a)(1) and 333(a)(2). According to documents filed with the court and statements made in court, from September to October 2007, Antwerp, acting through its predecessor entity PNO, knowingly and with intent to defraud introduced into interstate commerce organic broccoli and green beans originating in the People's Republic of China. The broccoli and green beans had been repackaged into containers falsely stating that the food products were instead a product of Costa Rica. The misbranded produce was distributed by PNO to a retail customer through approximately February 2008, when as a result of the FDA investigation, the customer learned of the misbranding violations and removed the misbranded product offered for sale to the public.
Although misbranded as to country of origin, FDA test results showed that the organic food products were not contaminated in any way, nor did they pose any potential health risks.
Antwerp, LLC's managing member, Marc Meurs, pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 331(a) and 333(a)(1), in March 2012, before U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, and was sentenced to a one (1) year term of probation. Meurs personally guaranteed the payment of Antwerp, LLC's $50,000 criminal fine.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, "Misbranded products mislead consumers into purchasing items and products that they might not otherwise purchase, if properly labeled. Consumers have a right to expect that they are getting what they paid for. Proper labeling makes this possible and, more importantly, ensures product safety."
David W. Bourne, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Miami Field Office, commended the support of the U.S. Attorney's Office in helping to ensure accurate labeling on foods through enforcement of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. He added, "We will continue to hold accountable those who would attempt to mislead consumers with falsified product labels."
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FDA, Office of Criminal Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Bonau.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.