Monday, March 24, 2014

Burnbrae back in court

Sweda Farms Ltd. has filed a 19-point appeal, trying to keep its conspiracy lawsuit against Burnbrae Farms alive.

Sweda alleges that Joe Hudson and his Burnbrae Farms business conspired with Bill Gray and his L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd., and Harry Pelissero, general manager of the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board, to drive Best Choice Eggs Ltd. out of the egg-grading business.

Svante Linde sold Best Choice last year and owns Sweda Farms and Tilia Transport Ltd. which are involved in the lawsuit against Burnbrae Farms Ltd., Burnbrae Holdings Inc. and Maple Lynn Foods Ltd.

The appeal says Justice David Corbett made errors in law when he dismissed all of the claims Linde made against Hudson’s companies.

The controversy began more than five years ago when the egg board alleged that Best Choice was cheating farmers and the egg board by failing to grade enough eggs as Grade A.

The board is financed by a levy on Grade A eggs and farmers get more money for Grade A eggs.

The board’s allegations were based on comparisons with the provincial average for the percentage of eggs that achieve Grade A status. More then 90 per cent of the province’s eggs are graded by Burnbrae and Gray.

Linde and Best Choice Eggs countered that their grading is accurate and it’s Burnbrae and Gray that cheat on grades.

Gray and Burnbrae deny any wrongdoing.

Records taken by a whistleblower and obtained from random sample audits by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency both indicate that Burnbrae and Gray routinely put eggs that do not qualify for Grade A into Grade A retail-ready cartons.

In an affidavit, Hudson testified that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a tolerance of up to five per cent for cracks in Grade A cartons.

There are no CFIA documents indicating that there is any tolerance for below Grade A eggs that are marketed as Grade A.

Gray earlier made an unsuccessful bid similar to Burnbrae to have many of the allegations against it dismissed. The judge in that case refused all of Gray’s motions for dismissal.

Gray has appealed that judge’s decisions. The appeal court decision is due out in early April.