Feds: Kosher chicken plant in New Square sells uninspected poultry, flouts federal law
BY KHURRAM SAEED • Journal News
A kosher chicken slaughterhouse and processing plant in New Square has sold uninspected meat since 2002 and continues to operate under unsanitary conditions, a federal complaint says.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York is seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against New Square Meats for numerous violations of the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act.
The case will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday in U.S. District Court in White Plains before Judge Stephen Robinson.
New Square Meats has been looking to build a much larger, state-of-the-art facility in New Square, which is an exclusively Hasidic Jewish village in Ramapo.
"The defendants … have demonstrated a brazen disregard for the health and welfare of the consumers of its poultry products," the U.S. Attorney's Office wrote in a court document. It said the defendants have "repeatedly flouted" the law and ignored requests by federal investigators to provide necessary records.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, federal inspectors observed a "multitude" of unsanitary conditions during a visit in April.
Inspectors found poultry residue on the plant's walls, a light fixture and the phone of the manager's office. The employee restroom did not have hand soap, sanitizer or paper towels in it. In the processing area, rusting wall brackets were above the work tables, and a chiller tank did not have running water, even though it was full of processed birds. Outside of the building, there were piles of rubbish and trash and pools of stagnant water with a foul odor.
The plant slaughters approximately 1,500 to 1,600 birds a day from Sunday through Thursday.
In 2008, it slaughtered and sold more than 355,000 birds. Virtually all of its poultry products go to Oneg Poultry, a grocery store in New Square. One plant official told inspectors in 2005 that all of the products are transported to the store in an unrefrigerated van.
New Square Meats, which also does business as Ezras Yisrael, Ezras Israel and Adir Poultry Inc., has been seeking to build a larger plant, off Route 45, but has been met with fierce local resistance.
Adir Poultry, the entity that would run the new operation, wants to replace its 5,000-square-foot slaughterhouse at the edge of the village with a $3 million plant that would be about 26,250 square feet. The proposed plant would be next to a residential neighborhood in New Hempstead.
Ira Emanuel, a New City-based attorney for Adir Poultry, did not return a phone message left for him late Monday afternoon.
Earlier this year, the proposed project was awarded a $1.6 million grant under the state's Restore New York program. In late October, Adir Poultry called off a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 10.
Two protests have been held near the facility. The last one, on Nov. 1, drew about 200 people.
Authorities said New Square Meats has violated federal law since 2002 by selling poultry that has not been inspected and passed by federal inspectors. From 2003 to 2008, the plant has processed nearly 2 million birds.
The law requires federal inspection of the poultry slaughtering and processing operations of any facility that processes more than 20,000 chickens a year. Before 2003, New Square Meats slaughtered and processed less than that amount.
In February 2003, the government said that plant officials falsely represented to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets that the plant would soon be subject to federal inspection.
In January 2004, the state stopped performing sanitation inspections of the operation, believing the federal government would take over the oversight.
But the government said New Square Meats had not filed any application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for federal poultry inspection at that time.
In September 2005, the plant submitted an application with the USDA but failed to complete the steps for inspection to begin.
In September 2004, the government said the facility's manager, Pinches Goldklang, admitted in a written statement that the plant was slaughtering roughly 2,000 heads of poultry a week and selling it without inspection.
Over the years, authorities said federal inspectors were routinely stalled by plant officials when they attempted to access key records needed for the enforcement of the federal poultry law.
During planned food safety visits, inspectors over the years had observed unsanitary conditions, including excessive fat and protein buildup on the walls and windows, mold on walls and overhead surfaces in all rooms, cobwebs on overhead structures, large pools of standing water as well as missing ceiling panels.
In May 2007, the USDA sent two Notices of Alleged Violation to plant officials, alleging violations of the federal law.
Officials failed to respond to either notice.