Texas meat company execs plead guilty to selling $1 million worth of uninspected, adulterated beef to federal prisons

Prisons are not pleasant places, neither are psych wards.

They’re really just boring, and involve dealing with controlling types – police, prison guards, parole officers, customs officials, psych-types – who expend major effort in defending the small piece of turf they control.

In prison, we’d have road apples at every meal – huge plums or something the size of horse testicles (road apples refers to the frozen version of horse turds, popular for pond hockey).

Jessica Fu of New Food Economy reports that two executives of a now-defunct meatpacking company pleaded guilty to selling more than $1 million worth of adulterated and uninspected beef to the federal prison system, the Department of Justice announced this week.

Jeffrey Neal Smith and Derrick Martinez, president and operations manager of West Texas Provisions, respectively, admitted to contaminating and mislabeling approximately 775,000 pounds of meat that were then distributed to 32 prisons in 18 states. Specifically, Smith and Martinez sold products that they falsely claimed had been inspected by the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) between October 2016 and August 2017. They also cut ground beef with whole cow hearts, thereby violating USDA food standards.

Though this is one individual case, it falls within a broad spectrum of issues relating to food safety in the prison system.

Smith and Martinez apparently went to great and, sometimes, bizarre lengths to obscure their scheme. Federal law requires all slaughterhouses to undergo FSIS inspection. To that end, after meatpacking facilities report their hours of operation to the agency, they are prohibited from working outside those hours.

According to former employees, Smith and Martinez ordered workers to come in on nights and weekends and process meat without inspectors present. To avoid arousing suspicion, workers were instructed to park off-site and work with the lights off, according to court documents. They were also discouraged from leaving the building to take meal breaks, in order to keep activity around the facility to a minimum. Additionally, Smith and Martinez admitted to hiding uninspected meat in freezers, and distracting inspectors from noticing said meat.

Though this is one individual case, it falls within a broad spectrum of issues relating to food safety in the prison system. In 2014, another Texas meat processor paid nearly $392,000 as part of a settlement with the USDA for mislabeling beef meant for pet food, which was then sold to the Bureau of Prisons. In Arizona, former inmates say they were served chicken from boxes labeled “not for human consumption.” Last year, The New Food Economy reported on the hidden public health crisis in America’s prisons—where incarcerated people were more than six times as likely to get a foodborne illness than the general population.

There are often economic incentives for food service providers to turn a blind eye to quality, such as the right to pocket any money leftover after fulfilling a contract. Infamously, an Alabama prison sheriff bought a beach house partially using “excess” funds meant to feed inmates. Smith and Martinez were also likely financially motivated to shirk federal beef standards.

Attorneys for the executives did not respond to requests for comment. Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on February 13, 2020.

621 inmates suffer food poisoning at Kyoto prison

When I was in prison 37 years ago, it had its own canning unit. Prisons have always been de facto work camps, and food is where the laborers were needed. Lotsa rumors about saltpeter, the daily horse chestnuts (canned plums) and whatever else could be thrown in a minimal cost.

It’s only gotten worse as privitization has taken over.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky said: “The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

According to Yusuke Kaite of The Mainichi 621 inmates recently suffered food poisoning at Kyoto Prison, the municipal government announced on July 4.

Although the exact cause was not identified, the city declared the outbreak a case of mass food poisoning, and banned the use of food facilities at the prison for three days.

Men from the ages of 26 to 76 suffered symptoms such as diarrhea and stomachaches from the morning of June 28 after food was cooked in the kitchen by 24 inmates. A total of 1,132 inmates and others had meals made at the kitchen at the time.

100 sick: French prisoners succumb to foodborne illness

Some 100 detainees from the Dijon prison were probably the victims of food poisoning. Analyzes are under way to determine the cause of the problem. The health treatment center at the Dijon prison had to face an influx of patients on the evening of Nov. 12, 2016.  All complained of stomach aches.

A dish of fish served with mayonnaise could be the cause of this poisoning which affected about 100 detainees out of approximately 260, indicates Thierry Cordelette, regional secretary of the trade union UFAP. Orders have been issued. Analyses will be carried out on the meals which have been recently served and which are prepared in the prisons’ kitchens by prisoners. The aim is to clarify whether this was a food-related problem or the cause is in the preparation process.

More throwing poop: Drunk man in UK police cell hurled poop at CCTV camera

A disgruntled man pooped on the floor of a police cell after his request for toilet roll was said to have been ignored.

pay-shoplifter-poops-on-supermarket-floorIan Brock, 31, was caught on CCTV pulling his trousers down and defecating in a corner.

He then smeared his own excrement on the walls and threw a lump of it at the camera.

Brock, of Rectory Road, Llangwm, pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage when he appeared before Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on Tuesday (October 4).

Prosecutor Vaughan Pritchard-Jones said Brock had been arrested for an unrelated matter and was “highly intoxicated” when he carried out the dirty protest.

“In interview, he admitted what he had done and said he was disgusted with himself,” said Mr Pritchard-Jones.

Shanghai gets tough with lifetime bans for food-safety violators

Shanghai has announced it will hand out new penalties to food-safety violators, with some crimes even leading to life bands from the food industry.

The move is the result of a draft review by the Standing Committee of the city’s Municipal People’s Congress of local measures on safeguarding food safety.

The draft, which contains measures to implement the national law on food safety, urged “the strictest punishment” for violators.


New Zealand prisoners learn to cook in a qualifications first

We had something like this when I was in jail, oh, 35 years ago in Canada, but I wasn’t into food then so I taught school.

Kindergarten-level reading to grade 12 physics.

nz.prisoners.cooking.jul.16And when the big dude said, I don’t wanna read today, we didn’t read.

Prisoners at Whanganui Prison in New Zealand have been given the opportunity to leave with a catering qualification.

A National Certificate in Marae Catering level two is being run in partnership with UCOL in Whanganui, with six prisoners recently graduating. 

The 14-week certificate was offered to the men to learn the cultural aspects of preparing food. 

Many of them had graduated from the prison Te Tirohanga programme, which is the national kaupapa Maori rehabilitation programme, operating in five prisons around the country.

Whanganui Prison assistant prison director Elizabeth Manchee said the skills gained from the course had many positives. 

“The men understand the importance of making better nutritional choices, can practise safe food handling and can demonstrate a basic knowledge of contamination hazards and control methods, all within a tikanga environment.

These former prisoners now know more about food safety than a lot of so-called chefs.

Homemade or prison-made, hootch has risks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a botulism outbreak at the federal prison in Yazoo City after 17 inmates became ill from drinking homemade alcohol.

27-Alcohol-Still-Heating-CoilLast week, the inmates consumed alcohol they made in the prison, according to Mississippi Department of Health spokesperson Liz Sharlot.

The inmates then began showing signs of botulism and required hospitalization. They were transferred to three hospitals in the Jackson area and each received an anti-toxin, Sharlot said.

To date, 15 of the 17 inmates remain hospitalized, according to a press release issued by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. One inmate was transferred to a federal prison in Oklahoma City before he began showing signs of botulism. He was also hospitalized.

According to Sharlot, the inmates were hospitalized over the course of the week, with one hospitalized over the weekend.

The outbreak is the sixth botulism  in the United States prison system since 2004, Sharlot said.

Meanwhile, a Queensland father has been found guilty of killing his son and two friends — and seriously injuring a second son — by accidentally giving them a toxic home brew.

The jury delivered its verdict against William Neil Clarence Lynam after three hours of deliberation, finding him guilty of three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm.

Lynam had pleaded not guilty to each of the four charges.


Jail’s no fun, especially with Salmonella

We describe multidrug-resistant (MDR) Salmonella Heidelberg infections associated with mechanically separated chicken (MSC) served at a county correctional facility.

chicken-prisonTwenty-three inmates met the case definition. All reported diarrhea, 19 (83%) reported fever, 16 (70%) reported vomiting, 4 (17%) had fever ≥103°F, and 3 (13%) were hospitalized. A case–control study found no single food item significantly associated with illness. Salmonella Heidelberg with an indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern was isolated from nine stool specimens; two isolates displayed resistance to a total of five drug classes, including the third-generation cephalosporin, ceftriaxone.

Salmonella Heidelberg might have contributed to the severity of illness. Salmonella Heidelberg indistinguishable from the outbreak subtype was isolated from unopened MSC. The environmental health assessment identified cross-contamination through poor food-handling practices as a possible contributing factor. Proper hand-washing techniques and safe food-handling practices were reviewed with the kitchen supervisor.

Multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg associated with mechanically separated chicken at a correctional facility

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Taylor Amanda L., Murphree Rendi, Ingram L. Amanda, Garman Katie, Solomon Deborah, Coffey Eric, Walker Deborah, Rogers Marsha, Marder Ellyn, Bottomley Marie, Woron Amy, Thomas Linda, Roberts Sheri, Hardin Henrietta, Arjmandi Parvin, Green Alice, Simmons Latoya, Cornell Allyson, and Dunn John


220 inmates sick at Arizona prison

Winslow, Arizona, famous for one of the few Eagles songs I can stand and where Starman Jeff Bridges had to be to return to his planet, is now notable for hundreds of inmates sickened at a state prison.

starman.winslowThe department says lab samples are being sent out to determine why 220 inmates in the Winslow prison complex’s Kaibab and Coronado units have had gastrointestinal illness.

According to the department, the stricken inmates are receiving medical care and being monitored.

It also says precautions being taken include having inmate meals prepared off-site and sanitizing the two units with a bleach solution.

Egg moguls belong behind bars

The Des Moines Register writes in this editorial that four months ago, Iowa egg producers Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter, were each sentenced to 90 days in prison for their role in the nation’s largest egg-related Salmonella outbreak.

decosterNow, however, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, the National Association of Manufacturers and other major business organizations are fighting to keep the DeCosters out of prison.

They’ve filed briefs with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, siding with the DeCosters in arguing that while fines and probation are acceptable in such cases, it’s unconstitutional to put corporate executives behind bars for the criminal actions of their underlings.

It’s an interesting case with major legal and ethical implications. After all, mere fines aren’t much of a deterrent to executives who collect multi-million-dollar salaries. But a 90-day stint in prison, as the DeCosters themselves argue in their court filings, carries with it the “personal loss and stigma” associated with becoming a convict.

In this case, a prison sentence certainly seems warranted. The Quality Egg salmonella outbreak of 2010 sickened at least 56,000 people (about 1,800 confirmed) and triggered a record-setting recall of more than half a billion eggs.

salmonella.eggsAs to whether the DeCosters themselves were to blame for the outbreak, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett found the two men had created a “culture of rampant safety violations” and a “work environment where employees not only felt comfortable disregarding regulations and bribing USDA officials, but may have even felt pressure to do so.”

The editorial conclueds that tens of thousands of people were sickened as a direct result of the manner in which the DeCosters managed — or, rather, mismanaged — Quality Egg and its employees. For that, the DeCosters should be held accountable. A prison sentence is entirely appropriate.