Alleged Bribery Scheme Put Moldy Tomatoes in Processed Foods

Kraft's director of corporate affairs Susan Davison said that the company was dissapointed by the SK Foods situation. "This is an anomaly because we do have a focus on quality. We did visual inspections of the product from SK Foods and rejected some in 2007," she said. Kraft sent its own quality expert to do an inspection of SK Foods facilities in 2007 and 2008.

Teena Massingill, Safeway's director of public affairs, said in an e-mail that the company did routine inspections on products from SK Foods and "found nothing to cause concern."

Case a Sign of Bigger Problems in Food Industry

The tainted tomato case underscores a widespread problem in the processed food industry, experts say.

"I am confident that these types of deals, whether they are direct cash or other things, go on all the time," Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler said.

Marler has represented victims of numerous E. coli and salmonella outbreaks in recent years.

"Our system is built on the presumption that companies wouldn't knowingly sell crappy food," he said. "That isn't true because there are other pressures; limited suppliers and production quotas" and demands from giant retailers such as Walmart.

A Lot on the FDA's Plate

Part of the problem is a lack of manpower at the FDA to handle food oversight and inspections, Marler said.

The FDA said in a statement, "This is an example of the ongoing work of the FDA to protect the nation's food supply. The FDA will continue to vigorously investigate, and where appropriate, prosecute those who would compromise the health and safety of our food supply."

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