Sunnyside business owner faces 12 felony charges over sale of tainted fruit juice

Valley Processing Sunnyside

YAKIMA, Wash. — An 80-year-old business owner from Sunnyside has been indicted on 12 charges related to sale and distribution of unsafe, mislabled and tainted fruit juice products between October 2012 and June 2019.

According to the announcement from Vanessa Waldref, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, Mary Ann Bliesner faces felonies for fraud, conspiracy, false statements and violating food safety laws. Bliesner, who faces up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $500,000 for each charge, is the owner of the Sunnyside-based business, Valley Processing Inc.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Federal judge orders former Sunnyside juice maker to destroy products

The statement claims that Bliesner and her associates knowingly distributed tainted products both domestically and across the world. Bliesner and the company allegedly lied about the age, quality and contents of their products, some of which contained harmful contaminants produced under unsanitary conditions.

The company even distributed contaminated grape juice products to the National School Lunch Program, which ensures that more than 20 million children have access to affordable lunches while pursuing an education.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Dead rats, high arsenic levels found at Sunnyside juice plant, per lawsuit

During a 2018 inspection of an unregistered facility in Sunnyside, health authorities found massive layers of mold and crust so thick that rats were observed walking on top of vats of unsealed juice. Samples allegedly found that juice products were contaminated with the feces of birds and rodents, animal remains, insects, mold, fur and yeast.

The company agreed to ceased the manufacturing of any further products through an agreement with federal officials in January 2021.

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