Someone Has to Pay in Inmate Pet Food Case

     DALLAS (CN) - A labeling gaffe that resulted in federal prisoners eating pet food will cost an east Texas meat producer that originally sold the products, prosecutors said.
     The $392,000 settlement announced Friday resolves a three-year investigation against Tyler, Texas-based John Soule Foods from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Safety Inspection Service.
     Prosecutors said that John Soule Foods sold mislabeled meat to wholesale buyers in late 2006 and early 2007, but the company has not admitted any civil or criminal misconduct in agreeing to pay penalties and reimbursement for the investigation.
     "USDA investigators obtained evidence that during that time period, John Soules Foods experienced problems getting some of their beef trimmings product to freeze properly," prosecutors said in a statement. "In order to minimize the risk of any potential problems, John Soules Foods sold some boxes of their beef trimmings to an independent meat broker who agreed to sell the product as pet food. With the understanding that the specified boxes of beef trimmings would be sold as pet food, John Soules Foods did not change the labels on the boxes to reflect the new 'pet food' designation."
     The wholesaler then broke the agreement and resold the trimmings the another entity for human consumption, with a subsequent meat broker reselling some of the pet food to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for prisoner meals.
     "There is no evidence that anyone who consumed any of the 'beef trimmings' product suffered any ill effects," prosecutors contend.
     John Soules Foods also agrees to review and add procedures for continued compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.
     Founded in 1975, John Soules Foods is a leading producers and marketer of fajita meat in the United States, according to its website. It employs approximately 500 people.
     "Food security and safety are stressed in all aspects of operations, from standard operating procedures to reduce and eliminate issues before they happen, to facility design that allows for complete separation between raw and ready to eat products and personnel," according to the company's website. "John Soules Foods operates an aggressive microbiological sampling and testing program for pathogenic organisms, including environmental and finished product testing. All ready to eat items are below detectable limits for pathogens prior to release to the consumer."