Agriculture Press Release
February 26, 1999
Crawford Takes Action Against Produce Firm for Mislabeling Produce
TALLAHASSEE Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Bob Crawford has taken action against a Lee County produce firm for trying to pass off Mexican cucumbers as U.S.-grown produce. Crawford has filed an administrative complaint and proposed settlement agreement in a case involving L & M Farms Inc., of Raleigh, N.C.
The complaint says L & M Farms received a shipment of cucumbers grown in Mexico and repacked the produce in boxes labeled "Produce of USA." It seeks a $15,000 fine from L & M Farms, a nationwide produce company with operations in Florida, California, Georgia and several other states.
Florida law requires that fresh fruits and vegetables grown outside of the United States must be clearly marked with the name of the country where they were grown. Firms that fail to identify foreign-grown produce face up to $10,000 per violation. Florida's "Country of Origin" law is enforced at all levels, from packers to the grocery store.
Food safety inspectors found the repacked cucumbers during a surprise inspection of the Bonita Springs packing plant earlier this month. Inspectors say 20 pallets of Mexican produce were repacked into the boxes. Additionally, the inspection revealed two tractor trailers loaded with boxes bearing, "Produce of USA" marked on the side. An L & M manager admitted that they had repacked six other loads of Mexican cucumbers into boxes claiming they were grown in the United States.
"A fine is clearly justified for this serious violation," Crawford said. "Florida consumers have a right to know where their food is being grown and should not be deceived by labeling violations."
Last year the Department collected $116,400 in produce labeling violation fines, mainly in retail establishments.
"Strong enforcement of labeling laws remain a priority for the Department, especially in light of a number of recent food-borne illness outbreaks associated with foreign produce," Crawford said.
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