LOS ANGELES– A Downey man who falsely certified that beef being sold by his employer was free of E. coli bacteria – which later proved to be false when one beef sample was found to be contaminated with the pathogen – has pleaded guilty to a federal offense of making and using a false writing and document.
Jim Johnson, 67, who worked as a consultant to the now-defunct Huntington Meat Packing Company, pleaded guilty to the felony offense Monday afternoon in United States District Court.
Huntington Meat was a Montebello-based meat processing and distribution company that sold raw ground beef that was used by other companies to make products such as beef patties and burrito mix. Under a food safety plan approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, Huntington Meat was required to test its meat for the Escherichia coli 0157:H7 bacterium
When he pleaded guilty earlier this week, Johnson admitted that in 2010 he knowingly and willfully provided the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) with a fake Certificate of Analysis which falsely stated that a beef sample from the company had tested negative for E. coli. Subsequent lab results showed that some of this meat was contaminated with E. coli. – which prompted the FSIS to issue recall 864,000 pounds of meat (see:http://go.usa.gov/crQ7H). There were no illnesses linked to the recalled beef.
“The defendant's lie created a public health hazard, and such conduct will not be tolerated,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The public is entitled to have confidence in the food that makes it to its tables. The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute aggressively those whose conduct undermines that confidence.”
As a result of his guilty plea, Johnson faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Fernando M. Olguin on March 3.
The case against Johnson is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, which received assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
USAO – California, Central Updated November 9, 2015
Central District of California DOJ / 15-123 / November 09, 2015