US meat processor Midamar has confirmed it has pleaded guilty to allegations it mislabelled products for export as halal.
The firm issued a statement confirming it has agreed to a plea deal with the US Department of Justice. In addition to the pleas, the company has agreed a settlement fee of US$600,000.
At the end of October last year, the company's founder William Aossey, was charged with 19 counts of breaking food labelling regulations. By December, federal prosecutors extended the scope of the investigation, charging Aossey's sons – Yahya (William Jr) Aossey and Jalel Aossey – with a total of 93 additional charges.
The federal indictment included: one count of conspiracy to make and use materially false statements and documents, sell misbranded meat and commit wire fraud; three counts of making false statements on export applications; 44 counts of wire fraud; 44 counts of money laundering and one count of conspiring to commit money laundering.
"The mislabelling of establishment numbers charge was a USDA export compliance matter (exports to south-east Asia not including Singapore)," the firm said. "The charge was not related to whether the beef product was correctly slaughtered according to Islamic Law," it insisted.
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"The charge of intent to commit wire fraud refers to potentially misleading information on company websites. To clarify, post-slaughter stunning was performed when required on cattle. This was not accurately reflected on the Midamar websites. Midamar beef is slaughtered in facilities that are equipped to perform religious slaughter and prior to 2012 Jewish slaughtered meat was exported to countries that approve of Jewish slaughtered meat as part of their Halal import guidelines. This too, was not reflected accurately on company websites. Corrective action and process improvements have been taken to ensure that accurate timely messaging is relayed through company sites."
The company said Yahya Aossey will move from co-director to president of Midamar Corp., effective 1 October. Jalel Aossey is expected to resign from the company by the end of the year.
William Aossey, whose case the company said "is independent of the Midamar settlement", is expected to file an appeal.
"Midamar accepts responsibility for the above charges and strives to continuously improve its processes and communications. This agreement will resolve all matters, set the record straight, and enable the company to focus on delivering quality food products and franchise supply chain solutions for our customers internationally," the firm added.