YAKIMA, Wash. (WXIN) — A federal indictment has charged a Washington woman and her now-closed company with manufacturing and distributing tainted fruit juice, some of which were supplied to the National School Lunch program.
The indictment, filed Thursday, alleges Mary Ann Bliesner and her company, Valley Processing Inc., conspired with others to distribute tainted and potentially unsafe apple and grape juice concentrate to customers in the United States and abroad.
The document alleges that between October 2012 and June 2019, the juice products were made under unsanitary conditions. They contained potentially harmful levels of contaminants, such as arsenic.
The indictment also alleges that Bliesner and her company, in some instances, sold juice products after storing them for years outside and exposing them to the elements. At least some of those products were sold to customers who supplied the National School Lunch Program, which provides free or reduced-cost lunches to children.
The indictment also alleges that Blieser and her company lied to customers about the age and quality of their products. They also failed to register two facilities they used to store fruit juice products and lied to FDA inspectors about the existence and use of those facilities, according to the indictment.
The company closed after a November 2020 civil complaint. In January 2021, the company promised that they were no longer processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding, or distributing any type of food, and would not do so in the future without first notifying and receiving approval from the FDA.
Bliesner faces 12 felony counts of fraud, conspiracy, false statements, and violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
An initial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5.