Are You Eating Moldy Tomatoes?

Moldy tomatoes from Kraft, Frito-Lay, B&G Foods, and Safeway could be in your pantry because of a basic weakness in the industrialized food system.  The NY Times reported that SK Foods, one of the nations largest tomato processors, was bribing large corporate buyers to push their rotten tomatoes into your pantry!

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…

… The scheme, as laid out by federal prosecutors, has two parts. Officials say that Mr. Salyer and others 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, 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.

The scope of the tainted shipments was much broader than the bribery scheme, touching more than 55 companies.

…In 2007, faced with a product shortage, Mr. Salyer allegedly ordered subordinates to ship 3.4 million pounds of moldy tomato paste to Kraft. It was accompanied by documentation falsely claiming that it met federal mold limits…

Michael P. Doyle, the director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, said there had been several cases in recent years in which ingredient suppliers were suspected of falsifying documentation to mask quality or safety faults in foods, especially with imports. He said that should make companies more aggressive in testing, not only to guard against pathogens but also to check quality.

“As a consumer I wouldn’t want to have moldy tomatoes in my tomato ketchup or my tomato products,” Dr. Doyle said.

(As if it s not bad enough that you can’t by ketchup without GMO High Fructose Corn Syrup!  But that’s… another post.)

Where do you go with news like this?

  • Do you call for a boycott?
  • Do you write your congressman?
  • Do you show up and picket your local grocery store?
  • Or fly to the corporate offices of one of these industry giants hoping to be heard?

Honestly, what I do, is say thank you New York Times for the reminder of why I grow my own food or buy it local as much as possible!

How about you?  How do you respond to such news?


  • Donna says:

    Just a note on the ketchup.  When we don’t make our own, this is one processed item that we purchase, (although we don’t use much) because we refuse to buy anything with corn syrup.  We buy two brands of ketchup with no corn syrup for those that are interested.  One is Muir Glen and the other is Organicville that is sweetened with Agave.  They’re more expensive, but you can get them on sale at times at Whole Foods (and if you have a family that loves their ketchup, you can get an additional 10% when you buy a case).

  • Mia says:

    I make my own ketchup/french dressing etc. and just reading this makes me so thankful that I’m growing LOADS of tomatoes this year! Thanks for posting this, its news like this that the consumers need to read and be aware of.
    Miss Mia

  • PaulTN says:

    Ketchup is one of my favorite homemade “dishes”.  Beth has a great, yet simple recipe, I’ll try to get her to post.  When she does it would be great if you both would share your recipes.  I think there are a lot of folks who would make it, if they knew how simple it can be.
    We are planning our garden with lot’s of tomatoes again this year.  Tomatoes is one of the few things we have left this year.  I wish we had been as blessed in the meat department as the freezer has plenty of tomatoes… but few pieces of meat left. 😉

  • Wow. Even more motivation to have a huge garden this year. Thanks for passing on this info!

  • Melinda says:

    Apparently I have been eating moldy tomatoes, because my brand was conspicuously missing from the shelf. The only tomatoes I canned last year were in the form of homemade salsa. I figured that plain store canned tomatoes would be fine for soups, spaghetti, etc . . . and used the homegrown to make salsa, because it is so much tastier than the stuff you buy. I guess we’ll have to plant even more tomatoes this year. And hope that they all live!

  • BethTN says:

    This is really disgusting!  It does make you want to grow your own food so you have control over what you eat and you know what’s in it!  It’s really upsetting that you can’t trust a can of plain tomatoes to be just that….tomatoes.

    On a similar topic, there is another recall out…I’m working on the article..but it is about recalling a common flavor put in a lot of our foods:  Hydrolyzed Vegetable  Protein!