FDA issues tampering warning - Potential threat to Western Washington Safeway stores

September 19, 2003

From Staff and Wire Reports
King 5 News

SEATTLE - The Food and Drug Administration advises shoppers to check their groceries. The warning came after an anonymous letter outlined a threat to tamper with food from Western Washington Safeway stores.

The agency says this is a precautionary measure because the letter described the puncturing of a small number of products.

The FDA says no actual tampering has been reported at this time.

The threatening letter was found at a Safeway store just east of Port Angeles.

The Safeway store reported early Thursday that it had received a threatening letter, a Clallam County sheriff's log indicates. The sheriff's office referred inquiries to the FBI and FDA.

"Yes, we're involved in a product tampering case with the FDA," FBI spokesman Ray Lauer said late Friday. "Beyond that I can't talk."

The FDA asks people in Western Washington to look at products purchased in the last few days.

FBI spokesman Ray Lauer in Seattle confirmed that the state Department of Health is examining what he calls a "suspicious item found near an area where threats were being received."

He declined to say what the item is, where it was found, or how long lab tests may take.

He also said a number of people were being interviewed, but he did not say who and he did not confirm the case involves a Safeway store.

Health Department spokesman Tim Church confirmed his agency's lab in Shoreline, north of Seattle, had been asked to "test a substance." He said he did not know what the substance was.

"We will be testing it for any bacterial or biological agents ... any kind of substance that's not supposed to be there," he said.

Test results could be available this weekend, but will be turned over to the FBI, Church said.

The FDA says any product or packaging could be affected and asks consumers to look for small punctures, holes, or even drill marks, and to pay close attention to purchases made in the last few days, especially from Safeway stores.

Anyone who finds signs of tampering should call the FDA's emergency operations center at 301-443-1240.


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