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Employees of 5 Companies Charged in Alleged Bribery Plot; Substandard Foods Sold

Posted Feb 25, 2010 8:21 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Federal prosecutors have accused a food supplier of orchestrating a scheme to pay bribes to get food companies to buy foods that were sometimes substandard.

Frederick Scott Salyer, the owner of tomato processing company SK Foods, has been charged with racketeering, fraud and obstruction of justice, the New York Times reports. Prosecutors allege he bribed corporate buyers to supply confidential bidding information or to buy foods that were moldy, too old or did not otherwise meet contract specifications.

Over the last 14 months, buyers at Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay, Safeway and B&G Foods have pleaded guilty to taking bribes, the story says. In some cases companies detected problems and returned the food, but some made its way to consumers, the story says.

“Because the scheme also involved millions of pounds of tomato products with high levels of mold or other defects, the case has raised serious questions about how well food manufacturers safeguard the quality of their ingredients,” the story says.

Prosecutors say the foods didn't pose a health risk, and no one got sick from eating them. Kraft spokespersons also told the Times there were no health risks from the food, and it sent an expert to monitor quality at SK Foods when concerns arose.

Salyer’s lawyer, Malcolm Segal, said his client has done nothing wrong. The allegations were made by employees who pleaded guilty and are seeking a reduced sentence, he said.

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