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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Ventura

Prosecutors Sue Mushroom Farm

March 14, 2000|TRACY WILSON

Ventura County prosecutors filed a suit Monday against the owners of a local mushroom farm, alleging that the Tennessee-based company has engaged in unfair and unlawful business practices.

The complaint contends that United Foods Inc. violated state law by keeping fatigued truck drivers on the road, threatening worker safety and increasing the public's exposure to potential traffic accidents.

United Foods owns the Pictsweet Mushroom Farm on Olivas Park Drive in Ventura and runs large trucks between the site and various Southern California horse racetracks that supply the manure and horse bedding used to grow mushrooms.

An employee at the Ventura farm, who declined to identify himself, said Monday that Pictsweet has a good safety record and conscientious drivers. He was not aware of the lawsuit.

Prosecutors say a complaint by a United Foods driver in May 1998 prompted California Highway Patrol officials to inspect the company's service records.

Under state law, truck drivers are required to log their daily hours of service--a rule designed to reduce driver fatigue and the risk of traffic accidents.

Prosecutors say that CHP officials found "hundreds of violations," including missing log sheets and records that showed drivers worked far longer hours than allowed.

Prosecutors said Monday that one driver worked a 60-day string of shifts of up to 18 hours each with only three days off.

The complaint seeks unspecified damages.

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