Sabotage: Woman gets 3 years for tampering food at Calgary supermarket with pins, needles

A Calgary woman was sentenced to three years in prison for repeatedly sabotaging food at a Calgary Co-op supermarket by repeatedly placing needles, pins and other sharp objects into food products two years ago.

Judge Gerald Meagher told Tatyana Granada, 45 (right), during sentencing, "This was mean and malicious behavior. It goes beyond the victim. It could have caused danger to members of the public."

Granada, 45, was convicted on Feb. 17 of four counts of mischief and four counts of trespassing in connection with the incidents at Oakridge Co-op in southwest Calgary on Jan. 13, Jan. 18, Feb. 17 and March 10, 2010.

The judge said the woman’s actions were vindictive for having been charged with shoplifting at the store on Dec. 18, 2009 — just under a month before the spree of food-tampering incidents began.

Granada, who defended herself for the sentencing hearing, responded, "You got it wrong. I have children you must think about it. Shameful."

Calgary Co-op manager Al Madsen testified in Dec. 2011 that from the first discovery of food products with pins and nails in them, on Jan. 18, 2010, until Granada was arrested on March 16, 2010, about a dozen surveillance cameras were installed to go along with the two or three cameras in place in January.

He said some cameras were installed with the knowledge of staff after the January incidents and several more strategically located cameras were "installed surreptitiously after staff left," following further tampering incidents on Feb. 17.

Madsen said the cost of the new cameras was between $35,000 and $40,000.

He told Crown prosecutor Martha O’Connor at Granada’s trial that the store was closed at least twice to conduct entire grid searches for tampered products.

Madsen said the pattern of tampering was consistent through January, where pins and nails were placed in fresh foods in the cheese, deli, bakery and produce sections.

Madsen said undercover security officers were hired to be on the lookout at all times for possible tampering by customers or staff.

Following yet another rash of discoveries of food items with pins in them on March 11, 2010, the manager said it was decided not to close the store again, but to have cashiers inform all customers at checkouts to be vigilant about checking any food products for tampering.

That day, the bulk food bins were dumped out and because the store could not ensure safety of customers, $9,000 worth of food was thrown out.

It was around that time that assistant manager Chris Goode identified Granada as having been barred from the Co-op stores in December 2009 for shoplifting.

Madsen said he reviewed video surveillance of Granada’s entire shopping trip from March 10, 2010, and outlined her route and where she stopped.

Food on pins and needles

Some punk in Calgary may be running around with, as the Edmonton Sun says, “a box of pins and a brain half as sharp” after the Calgary Co-op brought in police for the second time in a month over what appears to be food tampering.

Oscar Chaves of New Bedford, Mass., claims he ended up in hospital after allegedly biting into a metal needle in the middle of his Burger King Double Whopper.

Food service and retail is a tough business, one that is prone to fraud, allegations and errors.

The man with the Whopper called Burger King to ask them to pick up the more than $15,000 in medical bills that he accrued. He says someone told him that they’d get back to him in two days. That was more than a year ago, and he’s still waiting.

In mid-Jan., the Co-op found sewing needles, pins and buttons found in juice bottles, cheese and bread. This time, it’s a tub of margarine with a pin-sized hole pierced straight through the lid, plastic safety film and deep into the food inside.

Rigorous food safety programs, verification and even video documentation can help anyone in the farm-to-fork food safety system improve their operations and defend against malicious attacks.