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LITTLE ROCK - Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against a butcher shop with locations in Conway and Heber Springs, alleging that the owner sold adulterated and mislabeled ground beef and ground lamb.

The lawsuit against Lonnie's Meat Market and Catering, Inc. and its owner, Lonnie Copeland, contends Copeland mixed ground beef into products that he sold and labeled as ground lamb, in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. This came after Copeland entered into an agreement with the Attorney General to cease the practice of including beef heart in the ground beef he sold.

"Arkansas consumers were duped into buying adulterated meat so that this business could undercut its competitors and increase its profits," McDaniel said. "Consumers need the assurance that they get what they pay for, and that food products are of the quality and type that are represented on the label."

McDaniel's lawsuit states that USDA investigators determined that a package of ground lamb purchased from the Lonnie's Meat Market location in Conway contained components of ground beef. The state maintains that Copeland intentionally intermingled beef with lamb to decrease his costs.

McDaniel also alleges that Copeland is in violation of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the Attorney General's Office that he agreed to on Oct. 12. The Attorney General sought the AVC after learning that USDA investigators had found beef heart meat in five of the nine samples of ground beef, ground chuck and ground sirloin they had taken from his stores. Heart meat, which is classified by the USDA as an unacceptable ingredient in ground beef, was found in four ground beef samples and one ground sirloin sample.

In October, Copeland acknowledged that he had used beef heart in his ground beef products, but pledged to cease using it. Under the terms of the AVC, Copeland would be fined $25,000 if a court were to find that there were further violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

McDaniel's lawsuit seeks the $25,000, in addition to an injunction to prohibit Lonnie's Meat Market from adulterating or misbranding meat. The suit also seeks civil penalties plus attorneys' fees and costs.

The lawsuit was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court.


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