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Washington juice production company facing 12 felony charges for allegedly selling rotten juice, improperly storing concentrate

Mary Ann Bliesner, owner of Valley Processing Inc. in Sunnyside, was indicted on 12 felony charges for allegedly selling and producing rotten fruit juice.

YAKIMA, Wash. — A Yakima area business owner was indicted on 12 felony charges for allegedly conspiring with others to sell rotten fruit juice to customers worldwide.

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington Vanessa Waldref announced the indictment against 80-year-old Mary Ann Bliesner of Sunnyside on Thursday. Bliesner, the owner of Valley Processing Inc. (VPI), was indicted on 12 felony charges of fraud, conspiracy, false statements and violating food safety laws.

According to the indictment, Bliesner and VPI "conspired with others to introduce unsafe, adulterated, and misbranded fruit juice products" into interstate commerce by selling them to customers between 2012 and 2018. The indictment states that these juice products contained harmful substances, were produced in unsanitary conditions and were unsafe for consumption.

Bliesner and VPI allegedly lied to customers about the age and quality of their juice products, which included grape juice concentrate that was stored outside the VPI facility for years before being sold to customers. The concentrate was reportedly also sold to the National School Lunch Program, according to the indictment.

Bliesner also allegedly failed to register two facilities she used to store fruit juice products and lied to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors about the facilities' use. The indictment said one of the facilities located in Sunnyside was used to store thousands of gallons of grape juice concentrate for years in concrete vats that were not covered or cooled.

FDA investigators learned about the Sunnyside facility during a May 2018 investigation. According to the indictment, the juice concentrate in the facility had a layer of mold and crust so thick that a live rat was seen walking on top of it.

The indictment also states that testing of juice samples taken from the Sunnyside facility contained bird and rodent feces, fur, insects, decaying remains of animals, mold, yeast and other contaminants.

The United States filed a complaint against Bliesner and VPI in November 2020. The complaint sought to prevent them from producing, storing and selling juice or juice products. In January 2021, Bliesner and VPI accepted a consent injunction in which they promised they were not processing, handling or shipping out any type of food and would not do so in the future without consent from the FDA.

If found guilty, Bliesner faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. VPI could also face fines of $500,000 or more for each of the 12 charges against the company. VPI is now permanently closed.

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