Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. paid a $250,000 fine for selling fake baby apple juice, the largest penalty ever collected by the state for violating false labeling laws, state officials say.

Beech-Nut has already admitted it sold the product as "100 percent fruit juice" even though it was made from synthetic concentrate and contained little or no apple juice. The state Agriculture Department was alerted to the scam by Beech-Nut employees in 1981."The magnitude of the penalty sends a clear message to the food processing industry that false labeling is a serious offense, especially when the product is food intended for babies and young children," state Attorney General Robert Abrams said Monday.

Beech-Nut is one of the nation's largest baby food manufacturers. It sold 5 million jars of the adulterated apple juice before it was caught.