Vons Grocery Co., which has long advertised itself as “the more store,” paid a $200,000 fine to Orange County this week for allowing more fat in its lean hamburger meat than stated on the label.
The fine was part of a negotiated settlement with the county district attorney’s consumer protection unit. The settlement also calls for Vons to allow an outside laboratory to inspect meat samples from its Orange County stores for the next two years and report its findings directly to the county Health Care Agency.
According to Deputy Dist. Atty. Wendy Brough, 80 samples of Vons’ lean hamburger from stores throughout the county were tested by an independent lab last year. In about 30% of the cases, the fat content was higher than the 15% maximum listed on the labels. Most of the offending samples contained between 17% and 18% fat. The highest fat content was 20%, found in two samples.
Mary McAboy, a spokeswoman for Vons, said the excessive fat contents were caused by “human error” and were not intentional. “As a result of the settlement with the Orange County district attorney, we have introduced additional testing in our stores, including outside testing, and we are confident we will continue to meet or exceed our high standards,” she said.