AJ’s Fine Foods Parent To Pay $1.4M After Charging Customers More For Mislabeled Meat

How do you know you’re not being overcharged at the store? Usually, you don’t — it’s a matter of trust between the retailer and the customer that the listed price is for the food you’re buying. Oh and also, there are plenty of legal regulations regarding correct labeling. That’s why you can’t sell “choice” meat as “prime” and charge more for it. Because of a bit of meat mislabeling, the parent company of AJ’s Fine Foods will be handing over $1.4 million in restitution.

The Arizona-based retailer is operated by Bashas’ Inc., reports the Associated Press, and was accused of selling meat wrongly labeled — and having customers fork over more cash as a result — at 12 AJ’s locations in the Phoenix area and one in Tucson between January 2010 and February 2012.

Officials say workers in the meat department at some stores would slap the “prime” label on steaks that had been graded as “choice” under the USDA system and also mislabeled “Kobe” ground beef. AJ’s said it sold more than 17,500 pounds of mislabeled steaks and almost 140,000 pounds of the mislabeled ground beef.

In a statement, parent company Bashas’ outlined the errors:

There were two specific wrongs:
1) Meat department members at some AJ’s stores mislabeled USDA Choice steaks as USDA Prime (a higher grade that costs more, resulting in customers being overcharged); and

2) Meat department members at some AJ’s stores added cuts of expensive prime and choice steak to American-style Kobe ground beef in order to improve the consistency of the grind.

While Bashas’ won’t be tracking down all those customers who paid more money than they should have, the company will be paying $1.4 million to area food banks as restitution, and disciplining and/or firing the workers responsible for mislabeling.

“Both parties agreed this was a great way to remediate the damage done and help others in need, because there was no means of identifying which customers bought the affected items, and each customer’s loss was so minimal, issuing individual restitution would have been logistically difficult,” Bashas’ added in the statement.

Bashas’ to pay restitution for meat mislabeling [Associated Press]