Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ketchup Case Explodes a Range of Legal Issues Served Up When Condiment Repackaged with Heinz Labels

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ketchup Case Explodes a Range of Legal Issues Served Up When Condiment Repackaged with Heinz Labels

Article excerpt

Food and Drug Administration investigators are looking into an unusual case where bottles of ketchup repackaged as a premium version of Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co.'s flagship product were found in a Dover, N.J., warehouse earlier this month.

The case has garnered attention in part because some bottles exploded, leaving a mess, according to the on-site report by the Star-Ledger newspaper. But for the company and federal officials, concerns raised by the situation touch on everything from food safety to trademark issues.

Heinz officials are actively involved in figuring out what happened. "Based on our preliminary investigation, it appears that the unauthorized operation purchased traditional Heinz ketchup and then illegally repackaged the product," said Michael Mullen, vice president of corporate and government affairs.

He said phony Heinz bottles and bottle caps were found at the scene.

There were also fake labels for the Simply Heinz version of ketchup that the company makes using real sugar.

As some consumers have begun trying to avoid the high fructose corn syrup used as a sweetener in many products, companies like Heinz have introduced versions of some products that use sugar instead. Typically those products cost more.

An FDA spokeswoman this week confirmed the agency is looking into what happened.

"FDA is currently engaged in an investigation of the issue, but would not be able to provide additional information, as the investigation is ongoing," said public affairs officer Pat El- Hinnawy.

The FDA takes seriously any potential adulteration of food products, said John G. Moore, an attorney with Venable LLP's Washington, D.C., office, who focuses his practice on issues involving the FDA as well as other agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Intentionally listing wrong ingredients would bring the agency's attention, as would handling a food product improperly. …

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