Dart Drug Corp. was fined $2,000 Tuesday on charges of selling insect-and rodent-contaminated candy and cookies at two of its Fairfax City stores.
Judge Barbara M. Ardis imposed the fines after the Landover-based chain pleaded no contest to the charges in the city's General District Court. She suspended all but $500 of the fines on the recommendation of a prosecutor who said recent unannounced inspections at the stores turned up none of the problems that prompted the charges.
Last Thursday, similar charges against a third Dart Drug outlet, this one located in Richmond, were dropped by prosecutors there. Commonwealth's Attorney Aubrey M. Davis Jr. said he dismissed the charges because the store had corrected the problem.
In an interview after Tuesday's hearing in Fairfax City, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond L. Brownelle said the no-contest plea is an acknowledgement "that the evidence (against Dart) is here."
"I'm pleased," said a food inspection official in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which has jurisdiction over all firms other than restaurants that manufacture, store or sell food. "The plea is on the record."
Dart has been accused of selling "food adulterated with insect filth, insect larvae, moth fragments and rodent hairs" at the two Fairfax City stores. One of the outlets, inspected last Nov. 1, is located at 9622 Main St. in the Fair City Mall. The other, inspected Feb. 14, is at 9470 Arlington Blvd. in Fairfax Circle.
Neither Dart Drug attorney Bernard M. Fagelson nor company Vice President Richard B. Kabat, who also attended the hearing, would comment on the no-contest plea.
Prosecution of such cases is a rarity in Virginia. According to Arthur D. Dell' Aria, state agriculture department supervisor, the office's 21 inspectors -- including one assigned to the Fairfax area -- made 5,661 visits to state food-processing companies, warehouses and retail stores last year. In only eight instances did the state decide to seek prosecution, he said.