In the late 1990s, as on-farm food safety programs started to gain traction at the producer end – and a requirement by retailers – I had a couple of memorable conversations.
Genetically engineered Bt-corn was introduced in 1996 and growers loved it. But powerful technology requires powerful management so at least 20 per cent of a corn field had to be non-Bt-corn — a refuge — to stall the development of resistance. A grower told me he didn’t pay attention to that, his neighbor was his refuge.
At an informal meeting of chicken producers, one told me the paperwork wasn’t onerous, he sat down by the fire on Friday nights and filled out a week’s worth.
I told him it was supposed to be in real time.
But neither of these examples are as a Stafford Springs meat supplier who pled guilty to fabricating E. coli test results in federal court.
Officials told Doug Stewart of Fox 61 Memet Beqiri, also known as Matt Beqiri, 32, of Tolland, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty Tuesday in Hartford federal court to a charge related to his meat processing business’s falsification of numerous E. coli test results.
Beqiri pleaded guilty to one count of making and using a false document and aiding and abetting, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 12, 2019. Beqiri was released on a $25,000 bond.
Ryan J. Woolf, the attorney for Matt Beqiri, said his client was made aware of the issue and worked to rectify the situation. He also said this will “never happen again,” and that “no injuries, illness resulted from this issue.”
Beqiri is the owner and general manager of New England Meat Packing, LLC, in Stafford Springs.
Officials said the company is required to perform one generic E. coli carcass swab for every 300 animals slaughtered and to periodically collect ground beef samples for E. coli testing.
Officials said, “Between November 3, 2016 and September 9, 2017, Beqiri authorized the preparation and submission in the company’s Lab Sample Report binder, which the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) reviews, a total of 36 documents relating to 52 separate carcass swabs and ground beef samples on behalf of New England Meat Packing. The 36 documents were each on the letterhead of a certified laboratory that tests food product samples to ensure safety and wholesomeness and signed by the laboratory director. The documents stated that the required E. coli testing of samples submitted by New England Meat Packing had been conducted and completed, and that all 52 samples tested negative for E. coli. In fact, none of the 52 carcass swabs and samples had been submitted or tested by the identified laboratory, or any other laboratory, and the 36 documents were fraudulently prepared using laboratory letterhead obtained from previous testing that New England Meat Packing had conducted with that laboratory.”
Officials said Beqiri admitted to an investigator with USDA’s FSIS that the documents were fraudulent, and that his business did not collect and submit the samples to the certified laboratory because he did not correlate the potential impact on food safety with his sampling program and wanted to create the appearance he was compliant with all USDA HACCP testing requirements.
There have been no known instances of illnesses reported by anyone who consumed the meat in any of the states where the meat was distributed, according to officials.