December 7, 2021

New Jersey Firm Accused of Making Ricotta Cheese From Condemned Milk

A New Jersey cheese company has been charged in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania with shipping adulterated ricotta cheese that was unfit for human consumption.

According a press release from the prosecutor’s office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lebanon Cheese Company, of Lebanon, N.J., and the company‚Äôs president, Joseph G. Lotito, 42, of Annandale, NJ, allegedly sold cheese made from truckloads of raw milk that had been condemned by state dairy processors for excessive antibiotics.

It is alleged that from about January 2008 to about July 2009, D.A. Landis Trucking, Inc. (charged separately) hauled milk from approximately 700 individual dairy farms in Southeastern Pennsylvania to large dairy processors. At least 20 of these loads allegedly tested positive for beta lactum antibiotics using FDA-approved screening tests and were condemned and ordered to be destroyed by the dairy processor.

The charge alleges that the milk was supposed to be dumped at a local farmer’s manure pit, but was instead taken back to the trucking yard and pumped into another truck. Drivers then delivered the condemned loads of milk to Lebanon Cheese. The company got a deal: Instead of paying $12 to $23 per hundred pounds, the condemned milk was peddled for $4 per hundred. The drivers and the owner of the trucking company allegedly were paid in cash, prosecutors allege.

If convicted, defendant Joseph Lotito faces a maximum possible sentence of one year imprisonment, one year of supervised release and a $100,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

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