LOS ANGELES (AP) – The president of a food distribution company has been charged with improperly labeling and selling 4,000 pounds of sesame seeds contaminated with salmonella, prosecutors said.
Oded Kenan and his Woodland Hills-based company Woodhouse Commodities Inc. were charged with one count of adulterated food violation and one count of misbranding, the City Attorney’s office said Tuesday.
Kenan faces up to two years in jail and both he and his company could face up to $2,000 in penalties if convicted.
Calls to Kenan and the company after business hours Tuesday were not immediately returned.
Prosecutors said the case began when Woodhouse purchased 840 bags of hulled sesame seeds from an Indian company and the seeds were held at the Port of Los Angeles for a random inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Despite the hold, Woodhouse transferred the bags to a distributor for sale. Realizing the mistake, the company asked for the bags’ return but 80 of them had already made their way to bakeries, cafes and restaurants in Las Vegas, prosecutors alleged.
In January, results from the FDA testing returned positive for salmonella and Woodhouse submitted the bags for an irradiation treatment to kill the detected bacteria.
But the company failed to inform the FDA of the 80 bags that went to Las Vegas, and distributed six irradiated bags for sale without putting a ‘Do not irradiate again’ label on them in violation of federal regulations, prosecutors said.
The label was required to prevent a second irradiation of food productions and potentially expose the seeds to high radiation levels.
None of the bags sold to Las Vegas businesses were recovered, and there were no reports of illnesses from the consumption of the seeds, said city attorney’s spokesman Frank Mateljan.
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