Fake Ketchup Factory Busted in New Jersey

Posted: October 21, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

You Got To Be Shitting Me Entry #68

October 21, 2012

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Senior Editor, Yahoo! Shine

A ketchup counterfeiting operation in New Jersey is making consumers think twice about
what they’re putting on their food.

Officials discovered the fake ketchup factory after tenants complained about flies and
rotten odors coming from another part of the 7,000-square-foot warehouse in
Dover, N.J. They found thousands of plastic bottles labeled Heinz ketchup, many
of which had exploded after being abandoned in the hot building.

Heinz representatives say that they think someone bought large containers of
regular Heinz Ketchup and poured it into bottles labeled “Simply Heinz,” a
higher-priced product made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

“Based on our preliminary investigation, it appears that the
unauthorized operation purchased traditional Heinz ketchup and then repackaged
the product illegally,”Jessica Jackson, a spokesperson for Heinz North America,
said in a statement.

Needless to say, the warehouse was not the most sanitary of places, and there’s
no way to know if anything else was added to the ketchup.

“If you’re opening ketchup containers and pouring ketchup into other bottles, God knows
what you’re diluting it with,” Don Schaffner, a food scientist at Rutgers
University, told the Star-Ledger. “Ketchup is thick, so it’s possible you
would not use a food-grade ingredient to replicate that texture. I can’t begin
to imagine how bad it could be.”

Jackson said that the company “has not discovered any information that leads us to believe that the illegally
repackaged product is on the market.” The Warehouse was leased by Wholesome
Foods, LLC; they could not be reached for comment.

“The site of this operation was abandoned and had produced only a small quantity of bottles, much
of which was still on site,” Michael Mullen, vice president of corporate &
government affairs for Heinz, told the Star-Ledger in an e-mail “As the world’s leading
manufacturer of ketchup, Heinz has stringent manufacturing and packaging
practices in place to ensure the safety of consumers.”

The counterfeiters apparently didn’t know much about chemistry. Sugars ferment when
left unattended in a heated area; a sealed bottle filled with fermented ketchup
can explode if not stored properly.

Which is exactly what happened in the privately owned warehouse. The sweet, vinegary, tomatoey mess oozed and
splattered everywhere, attracting a swarm of flies and creating a rotten smell
that alerted other warehouse tenants, according to Dover Public Safety Director
Richard Rosell.

Sanitation issues aside, why try to counterfeit ketchup in the first place? According to online grocer Peapod.com, regular Heinz ketchup costs about 6 cents per
ounce; corn syrup-free Simply Heinz is 8 cents per ounce. (Maybe they meant to
rip off organic food buyers instead? Heinz’s certified organic ketchup retails
for about 20 cents an ounce.)

While such schemes are rare for Heinz, the company is concerned enough about the attempted counterfeiting that they’re
working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal
Investigation to clear up the problem.

“As a company dedicated to food safety and quality, Heinz will not tolerate illegal repackaging of our products
and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who engages in
such illicit behavior,” Jackson said in a statement.

The ketchup caper is just the latest in food-related fakery. Olive oil, for example, is a kitchen
staple that’s not always what it appears to be.

“It may just be a high-priced oil that’s diluted or mixed with inferior oil and passed off as the
real thing,” explains Farnoosh Torabi of Yahoo! Finance.

Same with Balsamic vinegar, which may say “Made in Italy” on the label when it’s actually made with
low-quality ingredients and then shipped to Italy for bottling. (Another tip:
fake balsamic vinegar may contain caramel coloring, but the real stuff does
not.)

An investigation last year by The Boston Globe found that most of the fish you find in
restaurants and grocery stores are mislabeled, with cheap tilapia subbing for
pricier red snapper and escolar (which is banned in Japan for making people
sick) being sold as “white tuna.” And super-expensive Kobe beef isn’t legally
available in the United States, so if you paid extra for a pricy Kobe steak, you
got ripped off.

 

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