February 24, 2010
By Caroline Scott-Thomas
Former owner and CEO of SK Foods Frederick Scott Salyer has been charged with running his company as a criminal racketeering enterprise for more than a decade and could face up to 20 years in prison.
According to federal authorities in Sacramento, Salyer is alleged to have ordered payment of $390,000-worth of bribes to company executives in order to ensure they bought tomato products from his company at above-market prices.
An ongoing federal lawsuit was filed against employees at SK Foods in August 2008, accusing them of distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, price fixing, and mislabeling offences, following a three-and-a-half year investigation. The California-based company supplied about 15 percent of the bulk tomato paste and diced tomatoes supplied to American manufacturers of salsa, ketchup and juices and it is alleged to have regularly paid bribes to the purchasing managers of many of its customers, including Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay, B&G Foods, and Safeway.
“The investigation has exposed a web of corruption and fraud in the tomato products industry – centered at SK Foods,” US Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a statement.
Salyer has been charged with racketeering, wire fraud and obstruction of justice. His lawyer Malcolm Segal said that Salyer intends to enter a plea of not guilty and dispute the charges.
Salyer, 54, was arrested by FBI agents at JFK airport in New York on February 4 as he disembarked from a flight from Paris. According to the complaint that led to his arrest, Salyer left the United States in October 2009, after several former SK Foods employees had pleaded guilty, with the intention of relocating permanently overseas.
This is the first time Salyer has been indicted in connection with the case.
The complaint alleged that he had been seeking permanent residence status in Uruguay, Paraguay, Andorra, and France, in the belief that he would not be extradited from those countries, and that he had siphoned millions of dollars from former SK Foods’ accounts into offshore bank accounts in the Caribbean and Lichtenstein.
Salyer had booked a flight to return to Europe on February 5, but instead appeared in court where a federal magistrate denied bail, saying that he had been planning an elaborate scheme to flee the country.
Meanwhile, the company’s vice president of operations Steven King was charged last week with intent to defraud and mislead by mislabeling moldy tomato products and releasing them onto the market. He has pleaded guilty to one count of food adulteration and misbranding, the tenth person to plead guilty in connection with the case.
November 16, 2009
By David Gutierrez
Whole Foods Market has announced plans to have all of its store-brand products independently tested to certify that they are made without the use of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“Since there is no U.S. regulation regarding disclosure on products manufactured with GMO ingredients, we are committed to helping our shoppers make confident choices by knowing that what they are buying has been verified as meeting the standards of the Non-GMO Project,” said Senior Global Vice President of Purchasing Michael Besancon.
Ensuring a food supply free of GMO ingredients can be difficult for manufacturers, since GM and unmodified crops are often mixed together prior to distribution. In addition, the prevalence of genetic modification in some crops – 90 percent of U.S.-grown soy is genetically modified – can make finding traditional varieties difficult.
Whole Foods is the largest retailer to ever take part in the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program in order to prove its GMO-free claims. Other companies whose products already carry a Non-GMO seal include Lundberg Family Farms, San J, SK Foods and Whole Soy & Co.
The Product Verification Program provides a GMO-free seal to any products that have tested free of GMO contamination in a combination of document-based reviews, on-site inspections and genetic tests.
Whole Foods called on other segments of the food industry to join it in seeking Non-GMO verification. It is holding a Web seminar on August 26 to educate the food industry about the Non-GMO Project and its Product Verification Program.
“As you can imagine, the level of diligence involved will require an enormous amount of effort at every step in the manufacturing process,” said Non-GMO Project board member and Whole Foods Quality Standards Coordinator Joe Dickson. “The more participation we have in the program, the more rapidly the industry will realize efficiencies. Economies of scale will ultimately have a real and lasting impact on the available supply of non-GMO ingredients.”
Whole Foods’ in-house brands should carry the GMO-free seal by October.