A Slippery Rock cheese company in bankruptcy has been accused of selling imitation cheese as the real thing from 2010 to 2013.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday filed criminal complaints against Universal Cheese & Drying, International Packing and Castle Cheese, all controlled by Michelle Myrter, who is charged with one misdemeanor count of aiding the introduction of misbranded and adulterated food into interstate commerce.
Castle Cheese, of which she is the president, was the maker of several varieties of cheese while Universal dried, chopped and sold the product under various labels, none of which are named in court documents. International Packing packaged and also sold Castle Cheese under various labels.
The Food and Drug Administration said the companies sold imitation Parmesan and Romano cheese in that the product contained other cheeses, such as Swiss and white cheddar, and didn't contain any milk. Prosecutors said the companies sold the imitation cheese to retail and wholesale outlets with labels saying it was 100 percent real when it wasn’t.
Ms. Myrter’s attorney, Stephen Stallings, said the prosecution was a regulatory case in which the companies have cooperated with the investigation and remedied the labeling issues.
“No consumer’s health or safety was ever jeopardized as a result of the labeling matters at issue,” he said.
In FDA cases, he said, the responsible corporate officer is held liable regardless of whether the individual had criminal intent.
“Ms. Myrter was unfortunately the corporate officer at the time,” he said, “but has not been charged with any felony nor accused of any criminal intent.”
He said she will likely receive probation and her companies will each pay $500,000 to resolve the case.