Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ever wonder what's in your tomato paste?

When bribes are paid to get business deals, the real losers are often the consumer who ends up paying either higher prices or gets lower quality goods or both. The NY Times reports that an investigation shows that the food industry has had significant, if not, widespread corruption. For example, a tomato vendor, SK Foods, paid bribes to numerous food companies, including Kraft, to sell their tomatoes at inflated prices and sometimes to give the company tainted, moldy tomatoes. Here are some juicy excerpts from the NY Times article:

The scheme, as laid out by federal prosecutors, has two parts. Officials say that (officials) at SK Foods greased the palms of a handful of corporate buyers in exchange for lucrative contracts and confidential information on bids submitted by competitors. This most likely drove up ingredient prices for the big food companies.

In addition ... SK Foods shipped its customers millions of pounds of bulk tomato paste and puree that fell short of basic quality standards... Often that meant mold counts so high the sale should have been prohibited under federal law...

The scope of the tainted shipments was much broader than the bribery scheme, touching more than 55 companies. In some cases...the tainted ingredients wound up in food sold to consumers.

The article also talks about how tone at the top appears to have affected some major companies in the food industry and perhaps the entire industry. The article reads: “If you have a couple of people who are willing to bend the rules and they set that tone from the top, that can spread very quickly in that company and in that niche of the industry, and that’s what happened here,”

This shows how corruption in business can even taint your spaghetti sauce!

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