Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Plant operations suspended TUBROVILLE KOSHER WORKS: State says New Bremen facility guilty of numerous sanitary-code violations 

he state Department of Agriculture and Markets has temporarily shut down operations at a kosher plant here and may revoke its license after discovering a litany of sanitary-code violations.

The milk plant permit of FJB LLC, which operates here as Tubroville, was suspended Friday, and a hearing has been scheduled for Monday to consider revoking that permit, according to Ag and Markets spokeswoman Jessica C. Ziehm.

"They are to suspend all operations, at this point," she said.

All finished products at the 7705 Route 812 plant in the town of New Bremen were seized by officials from the state agency, although the company was allowed to sell raw milk to another processor, Mrs. Ziehm said.

Sanitary-inspection reports from nine days in December and earlier this month indicated the plant was in violation because products were unfit for food and "produced, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered diseased, unwholesome or injurious to health," according to a four-page order of summary suspension of the plant permit.

The state agency on Jan. 10 also found homogenized, skim and chocolate milk that "contained excessive standard plate counts of bacteria and excessive amounts of coliform bacteria," the document alleges.

The order states that a dairy products specialist with the agency seized the following unsanitary products:

■ Dec. 27: 14,901 pounds of packaged milk and 23,283 pounds of bulk processed milk that had been handled in unclean equipment prior to pasteurization, along with 1,008 pounds of raw heavy cream that had been held at 56 degrees Fahrenheit, which is above the legal maximum temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

■ Dec. 29: 1,720 pounds of heavy cream that had been held at 49 degrees Fahrenheit.

■ Jan. 14: 3,800 pounds of cottage cheese that contained an "unfit ingredient" and was being held at 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the lowfat portion and 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the regular portion.

Mrs. Ziehm said Monday that she was unable to provide further paperwork documenting all alleged violations to be presented at the hearing, but she indicated some date as far back as July.

Menachem and Schneur Bistritzky, owners of FJB, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The Bistritzkys in February 2009 purchased the assets of Ahava Entities, including the New Bremen facility and a kosher plant in Ogdensburg, through two financial institutions that had liens on Ahava through Chapter 7 bankruptcy of that company's owner, Moise A. Banayan.

However, Ahava of California, operated by Mr. Banayan and his brother, Fariborz, but not included in Ahava Entities, continued to occupy the New Bremen plant through a lease agreement with Lewis County Dairy, the name under which the plant had previously operated.

A state Supreme Court judge in August 2009 granted FJB a preliminary injunction allowing it to operate the facility, but two court cases between the corporations are pending.

The plant had employed about 50 people, but that figure has reportedly dropped significantly during the past year.

The state Department of Labor on a couple of occasions last fall investigated bounced checks to employees at both kosher plants and levied a $2,000 civil penalty in September.

The Ogdensburg plant, which operates as Tubroburg, a couple of weeks ago had operations halted after National Grid cut off its electricity Tuesday because of unpaid bills. The owners had planned to bring in backup generators to resume operations, but on Monday afternoon, the Main Street plant's parking lot was empty and its front door was locked.

A sign that was posted just inside the front door informed employees of a new policy, effective Wednesday: "Visitors are not permitted on the premises without first signing in."

Several milk producers have reportedly stopped doing business with the plant, and it is involved in a protracted court battle over what the city deems to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent, tax and utility bills.


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