AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged a Cameron County meat wholesaler with failing to obtain a “Grant of Inspection” from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). A “Grant of Inspection,” which is essentially a state license to operate as a meat wholesaler, is required under the Texas Meat and Poultry Inspection Act. According to court documents, the defenzdant also failed to obtain other legally required supplier certifications.

Today's action to compel La Villita Meat Market to comply with state and federal food safety requirements comes despite considerable effort by the state to negotiate remedial measures with the defendants. The state's investigation into La Villita began under its previous owner, Cesar Gonzalez, who sold the San Benito business to Texas International Sales Inc., owned by Cesar Gonzalez's son, Rolando Gonzalez, who now operates La Villita.

The state charged La Villita with misleading area retailers by claiming to be a “state inspected” facility. However, authorities revealed that the defendants' unlabeled, packaged meat bears no official inspection stamps. La Villita mainly sells to area restaurants at wholesale, but because La Villita lacks the required state-issued Grant of Inspection, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations prevent it from wholesaling more than 25 percent of its products. The defendants are also charged with exceeding USDA gross sales limits without the required Grant of Inspection.

Today's enforcement action is not La Villita's first encounter with authorities. The defendants have been provided multiple opportunities to cure deficiencies under threat of legal action by state authorities. Ignoring DSHS meat inspectors, La Villita's previous owner neglected to upgrade its meat market facility, which was in disrepair and dilapidated. Because of likely enforcement action, the current owner has replaced wooden equipment with stainless steel equipment, has dismantled and removed rusted railings, has projects under way to repair freezers and will evacuate stagnant water from the facility. Despite those upgrades, La Villita is not yet compliant with state and federal regulations.

The Attorney General lawsuit seeks both temporary and permanent injunctions, and penalties for violations of both the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Meat and Poultry Inspection Act.z