Neb. meat business settles inspection lawsuit

AP News
Posted: Nov 30, 2009 6:38 PM

A western Nebraska meat business has settled a 2-month-old lawsuit after agreeing to following federal inspection laws governing businesses that sell to commercial customers.

Federal prosecutors had said Marky's Meat Market in Gering violated meat inspection rules since 2006 because the business sold meat to commercial customers without having USDA inspectors present during preparation.

Owner Mark Gies said in September that he'd been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture since he became aware of the issue in 2007. The lawsuit helped resolve the issue and publicity about the case even helped attract some new customers, Gies said Monday.

"Everything worked out good," he said.

USDA officials did not immediately respond to a message left Monday.

The settlement agreement was filed in court Nov. 10. U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg said Gies promised to comply with the federal meat inspection act _ either by making sure his business is inspected or by reducing his commercial sales.

"It has been resolved because he is agreeing to comply with those requirements," Gilg said.

No one had questioned the quality or safety of meat sold by Gies, but prosecutors said from 2006-2009 the business exceeded the federal threshold on how much uninspected meat could be sold commercially. For instance, the business sold $204,513.37 of meat to non-household customers in 2008, when the limit was $56,900.

Businesses also must sell at least 75 percent of their meat to consumers to remain exempt from commercial inspection rules. Prosecutors say this sort of case often involves grocers whose commercial meat business grows enough to violate the rules.

Gies said the USDA has approved a hazard-control plan for his business, and an inspector has been stationed there since last Tuesday.

Gies needs to have an inspector at his business for only a couple hours a day while he is preparing the products he sells to restaurants. But he said the restaurant sales are a big part of his business.