Feds: NJ company bought tainted milk for ricotta

March 12, 2012 - 6:05 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A New Jersey cheesemaker made its ricotta cheese from tainted milk that was on its way to a landfill, federal authorities charged.

The raw milk from Pennsylvania had been condemned because of high levels of antibiotics, authorities said. No injuries or illnesses were reported.

Lebanon Cheese Co. of Lebanon, N.J., and its president, Joseph G. Lotito, were charged Monday with a misdemeanor interstate shipping charge.

The company paid cash for the discounted milk from D.A. Landis Trucking Inc. of Lancaster, although dairy farmers had pledged to dispose of it, prosecutors said. Lebanon sold the ricotta cheese to restaurants, delis, ravioli manufacturers and others.

The consumption of such milk could prove harmful to someone allergic to an antibiotic such as penicillin, and raises concerns about human resistance to antibiotics, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease said.

A defense lawyer for the company and for Lotito, 42, of Annandale, N.J., did not immediately return a message.

Landis Trucking and President Dean Landis have agreed to plead guilty Friday in Allentown to conspiracy to falsify driver log books.

Landis trucked milk from about 700 dairy farms in southeastern Pennsylvania to large dairy processors in 2008 and 2009. About 20 loads were condemned after tests showed they had more than the acceptable level of hormones. The milk was supposed to be taken to landfills, but Landis allegedly told his drivers to move it to other trucks.

A lawyer for Landis, Michael McCarrie, declined comment until after Friday's hearing.