EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - Federal prosecutors are accusing an Illinois man of inserting sewing needles into packaged ground beef for more than a year at a supermarket in his hometown.

Sixty-eight-year-old Ronald Avers of Belleville was charged Wednesday with seven felony counts of tampering with consumer products.

The FBI alleges in court filings that a Shop 'n Save grocery store reported on July 9 at least seven cases since May of last year in which sewing needles were found in packaged meat products.

The criminal complaint alleges one customer found a needle in her mouth while eating and another reported being stuck in the hand. Other customers said they found needles in the meat they bought but were not injured.

Shop 'N Save has released a statement about the incident.

The safety of Shop 'N Save customers and employees is a top priority. On July 29, federal law enforcement officials apprehended a person suspected of periodically tampering with meat at the Shop 'N Save store on North Belt West in Belleville, IL. The suspect allegedly placed sewing-type needles in fresh ground beef, fresh cut beef, and fresh cut pork products. Shop 'N Save engaged federal law enforcement authorities and has worked closely with them in their efforts to identify and apprehend this individual. No one reported needing medical attention as a result of the alleged tampering and we have no reason to believe any tampering occurred outside of the Belleville North Belt store. Any customer concerned about fresh meat purchased at the Belleville store on North Belt prior to July 12 can obtain a full refund or exchange. July 12 was the last date the customer was in the Belleville store prior to his arrest on July 29.

Shop 'N Save wants to thank the customers who brought these incidents to our attention. It is through the information that we received from them that led to the suspect's arrest and being criminally charged on Thursday.

Avers remained jailed Thursday.

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