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Friday, January 30, 2009 


Pretty shady business dealings in the "nightshade family" world.
Purchasing managers for Kraft Foods and Frito-Lay have admitted taking a total of $318,000 in bribes from a broker at a major Central California tomato processor while arranging to buy the company's products at inflated prices, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

A third defendant pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding his former employer, a tomato products manufacturer and marketer, out of $975,000 before leaving in 2005 to join the tomato processor, SK Foods of Lemoore (Kings County). The charges, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, are part of a federal price-fixing investigation involving SK Foods.

...Prosecutors have said the corruption alleged in the case has raised consumer prices for tomato sauces, soups and salsas. The charges announced Tuesday provided the first few details. - SFGate
The Ethicurean has a great (kinda scary) blog post about the consolidation of the tomato industry.
Before World War II, there were commercial growers and canners in many states — including Delaware, Virginia, Utah, New Jersey and New York — and California produced only 20% of the nation’s tomatoes. Thanks to the development of both mechanical harvesting equipment and tomato varieties that can be picked by machine, the number rose to 50% in 1953, and reached 95% in 2007.

...Concentration in the tomato industry goes beyond the farm, into the seed business, where just three companies — Heinz, Bayer CropScience and Monsanto — control 90% of the market.

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