7 CFR 46.45 - Procedure in administering section 2(5) of the Act.
It is a violation of section 2(5) for a commission merchant, dealer, or broker to misrepresent by word, act, mark, stencil, label, statement, or deed, the character, kind, grade, quality, quantity, size, pack, weight, condition, degree, or maturity, or State, country, region of origin of any perishable agricultural commodity received, shipped, sold, or offered to be sold in interstate or foreign commerce. However, a person other than the first licensee handling misbranded perishable agricultural commodities shall not be held liable for a violation of section 2(5) of the Act by reason of the conduct of another if the person did not have knowledge of the violation or lacked the ability to correct the violation.
(a) Violations. Violations are considered to be serious, very serious, or repeated and/or flagrant, depending upon the circumstances of the misrepresentation.
(1) Serious violations. Include the following:
(i) Any lot of a perishable agricultural commodity shown by official inspection to contain scorable defects, off-size, off-count, exceeding the tolerance(s) in an amount up to and including double the tolerance provided in the applicable grades, standards or inspection procedures;
(ii) Any lot of perishable agricultural commodity officially certified as failing to meet the declared weight;
(iii) Any lot of a perishable agricultural commodity in which the State, country, or region of origin of the produce is misrepresentated because the lot is made up of containers with various labels or markings that reflect more than one incorrect State, country or region of origin. Example: A lot with containers individually marked to show the origin as Idaho or Maine or Colorado when the produce was grown in Wisconsin; or
(iv) Any other physical act, verbal or written declaration, or record entry that misrepresents a lot of a perishable agricultural commodity to the same extent as the examples listed.
(2) Very serious violations. Include the following:
(i) Any lot of a perishable agricultural commodity shown by official inspection to contain scorable defects, off-size, off-count, in excess of double the tolerance(s) provided in the applicable grades, standards or inspection procedures;
(ii) Any lot of a perishable agricultural commodity packed in containers showing a single point of origin, which is other than that in which the produce was grown, such as containers marked “California” when the produce was grown in Arizona;
(iii) Any lot of a perishable agricultural commodity officially certified as having an average net weight more than four percent below the declared weight;
(iv) Multiple sales or shipments of a misrepresented perishable agricultural commodity within a seven day period that can be attributed to one cause; or
(v) Any other physical act, verbal or written declaration, or record entry that misrepresents a lot of a perishable agricultural commodity to the same extent as the examples listed.
(3) Flagrant violations. Include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following examples:
(i) Shipment or sale of a lot of a perishable agricultural commodity from shipping point after notification by official inspection that the inspected commodity fails to comply with any marking on the container without first correcting the misbranding;
(ii) To offer for resale or consignment, a lot of a perishable agricultural commodity that has been officially inspected at destination and found to be misbranded without advising a prospective receiver that the lot is misbranded and that the misbranding must be corrected before resale. When a resale or consignment is finalized, written notice must be given that the lot is misbranded and must be corrected before resale; or
(iii) To withhold or fail to disclose known material facts with respect to a misrepresentation or misbranding.
(1) Evidence concerning a misrepresentation or misbranding includes official certificates of an inspection made by any person authorized by the Department to inspect fruits and vegetables or other public certifiers, and includes investigations and audit findings and any business records, testimony or other evidence bearing on the subject.
(2) When a lot of a perishable agricultural commodity has been officially inspected, and certification is made that the descriptive container markings are correct, but a subsequent inspection reverses the original findings, both inspection certificates will be accepted as evidence to show that the shipper/seller has not misrepresented the lot. The receiver of the commodity will be in violation if the misrepresentation is not corrected before the commodity is shipped, sold or offered for resale.
(c) Sanctions -
(1) Informal. When liability for a violation of section 2(5) of the Act is to be settled informally, the violator may:
(i) Be given written warnings; or
(ii) Be given notice that liability for a violation may be settled by admitting the violation in writing and paying a penalty in an amount satisfactory to the Secretary in lieu of formal disciplinary action. In the event of a formal proceeding to suspend or revoke the license of such person because he has committed other violation(s), the admitted violation(s) will not be used to support the formal complaint but may be admitted to show a course of conduct prior to the filing of the formal complaint;
(iii) (A) The schedule for informal disposition is as follows:
|( 2)||( 3)|
1 Warning letter.
2 If serious violation.
3 Very serious violation.
(B) Informal disposition of misrepresentation violations is not limited to seven occurrences and will be considered for further violations.
(2) Formal. Formal proceedings to suspend or revoke a license may be instituted at any time against a person who has committed repeated and/or flagrant violations.
(d) Cumulative record. A cumulative record of licensee's misrepresentation violations will be maintained with the following limitations:
(1) Two years after the date it was committed or after payment of a monetary penalty, the violation will not be used as a basis for instituting formal disciplinary action. However, it may be cited as a part of the pattern of violations if formal proceedings are instituted and will be used in determining the level of monetary penalty for informal settlements.
(2) The record of violations not involved in formal proceedings will be expunged if there are no violations during a twenty-four (24) month period from the date of the most recent violation, or after thirty-six (36) months from the date of said violation, unless it was made a part of a formal disciplinary complaint.
(e) Summary of procedure -
(1) Compilation of authority. The rules defining misrepresentation, including misbranding, and for determining liability and disposition of violations are contained in the Act (7 U.S.C. 499 et seq.), in particular sections 2(5) and 8 (7 U.S.C. 449b(5) and 499h), § 46.45 of the Regulations (7 CFR 46.45), the Rules of Practice Governing Formal Adjudicatory Administrative Proceedings Instituted By the Secretary (7 CFR 1.130 et seq.), and in the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.).
(2) Evidence of misrepresentation. Evidence of misrepresentation or misbranding violations includes results of official inspections, audit findings, business records, or other documentation or testimony bearing on the subject. When a lot of fruits and vegetables has been officially inspected, and certification made that the descriptive markings on the container do not misrepresent the produce, but a subsequent inspection reverses the original finding (such as to grade, size, weight, etc.), the shipper/seller will not be charged with violation of the Act. However, the misrepresentation must be corrected before the lot is shipped, sold, or offered for resale.
(3) Warning letters. When informal settlement of liability is appropriate, violators are given two written warnings and an opportunity to take preventive action before formal action is considered. Warning letters include an explanation of the requirements of the Act and recommendations of actions which the violator can take to avoid future violations.
(4) Informal sanctions. Violations subsquent to the sending of the warning letters referred to above, other than flagrant violations, may be settled informally pursuant to paragraph (c)(1) of this section. This procedure permits the violator to resolve the matter by payment of a monetary penalty pursuant to a schedule set out in lieu of a formal proceeding.
(5) Formal sanctions. In cases involving repeated or flagrant violations of the Act, formal proceedings seeking the suspension or revocation of the violator's license may be instituted pursuant to the Rules of Practice governing such matters (7 CFR 1.130 et seq.). Except in cases of willfulness or where the public health, interest, or safety requires otherwise, a violator must be given written warning and opportunity to demonstrate or achieve compliance with the Act before its license can be suspended or revoked (5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.). The warning letters referred to above serve this purpose. If formal proceedings are instituted, the violator is afforded an oral hearing, if requested, before an Administrative Law Judge, an opportunity to appeal an adverse decision to the Department's Judicial Officer, and a further opportunity to appeal an adverse final decision to the appropriate United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
(6) Use of record of misrepresentation. A cumulative record of misrepresentation is maintained. It is used as a basis for determining whether a warning letter should be considered, and, if so, the amount of monetary penalty which is appropriate, or whether there is cause for instituting a formal disciplinary proceeding seeking suspension or revocation of the violator's license. But after payment of a monetary penalty or after two years from the date of the last violation, no formal disciplinary use can be made of the previous record of violation. The record of misrepresentation shall be erased if there are no further violations in the twenty-four (24) month period immediately following the most recent violation, or after 36 months from the date of each individual violation unless it is involved in formal disciplinary proceedings.