More corruption in the tomato industry

According to this New York Times article, following a recent set of plea bargains entered by insiders within the concentrated and consolidated food supply system, the US Attorney General as indicted new culprits in a collusion scheme.  (Mind you: these are different from the ones I discussed last week here.)

Over the last 14 months, Mr. Watson and three other purchasing managers, at Frito-Lay, Safeway and B&G Foods, have pleaded guilty to taking bribes. Five people connected to one of the nation’s largest tomato processors, SK Foods, have also admitted taking part in the scheme. Now, federal prosecutors in California have taken aim at the owner of SK Foods, who they say spearheaded the far-reaching plot. The man, Frederick Scott Salyer, was arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City on Feb. 4 after getting off a flight from Switzerland. He was indicted last week on racketeering, fraud and obstruction of justice charges.

Not only did the corruption here lead to higher prices for consumers, but it also endangered the health and safety of the public.

In addition, prosecutors say that for years, SK Foods shipped its customers millions of pounds of bulk tomato paste and puree that fell short of basic quality standards — with falsified documentation to mask the problems. Often that meant mold counts so high the sale should have been prohibited under federal law; at other times it involved breaching specifications in the sales contracts, such as acidity levels or the age of the product.

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