Only in Jersey.
Inside a privately owned Dover warehouse are, according to The Star-Ledger, the remnants of an abandoned Heinz Tomato Ketchup counterfeiting scheme.
The ketchup appears to be real but the labels on the plastic bottles are a fraud, accordingto a Heinz spokesman.
Company officials, who visited Dover last week, believe someone purchased traditional Heinz Ketchup and transferred it from large bladders into individual bottles labeled “Simply Heinz,” a premium variety made with sugar instead of high fructose corn
The 7,000 square feet of space on Richboynton Avenue in Dover had hundreds of crates holding thousands of bottles of ketchup sweetener.
Of course, without any quality control, it is impossible to know what, if anything, else was put in those bottles.
Heinz does not believe the scheme got too far.
“The site of this operation was abandoned and had produced only a small quantity of bottles, much of which was still on site,” said Michael Mullen, vice president of corporate & government affairs in an e-mail.
The thing is, you can’t just walk away from something like this. Tomatoes and vinegar, both acidic, combined with sugars, which ferment when left unattended in the heat, build up pressure inside the bottle and then … explode.
“As a company dedicated to food safety and quality, Heinz will not tolerate illegal repackaging of our products and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who engages in such illicit behavior,” Mullen said.
And those Heinz folks are; I got the chance to speak with the managers of all the North American manufacturing plants a few years ago, and they were tough – on themselves.
Sorta like me.
Friend of the blog Don Schaffner of Rutgers University (above, hosting a recent lab meeting, sorta as shown) said counterfeit food operations in the U.S. are rare, though scams have popped up with greater frequency internationally in recent years.
Schaffner said it’s impossible to know what health consequences the counterfeit ketchup could have caused without knowing what kind of filler might have been added, but said it’s unlikely someone making counterfeit food would follow even basic food safety regulations that govern food products in the U.S.
“If you’re opening ketchup containers and pouring ketchup into other bottles, God knows what you’re diluting it with,” Schaffner said. “Ketchup is thick, so it’s possible you would not use a food-grade ingredient to replicate that texture. I can’t begin to imagine how bad it could be.”