"It didn't represent a health risk," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Frey, who prosecuted the case in Camden yesterday. "It was more like a consumer fraud."
The cooked corned beef and roast beef products, which would be used in sandwiches or sold at some cold-cut counters, are supposed to contain nothing but meat, said an agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's compliance department. The agent asked not to be identified.
But in some instances, the roast beef contained up to 24 percent extra water and salt, and the corned beef contained up to 15 percent extra water and
salt, Frey said.
Although the papers filed against the company charged it with selling the waterlogged meat between December 1985 and Oct. 5, 1987, the company corrected the problem in June 1986, according to the company's attorney, Richard Lawrence Friedman of Camden. In court, Clarke admitted only to selling the adulterated meat between December 1985 and June 1986.
"There was no recall of the products," Friedman said.
The company sold the corned beef and roast beef in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Friedman said. Neither the prosecution nor defense has figures on how much meat was sold.
The company sells "cheaper end" cooked and processed meats, according to salesman Peter Mazzola.
"It comes from a utility cow - a wholesome cow, but a utility cow. We're the Ford and Chevy of the processed-meat business. We're definitely not a Cadillac. It's a price item."