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Firms responsible for sell-by date fraud named

The firms alleged to be involved in a fraud in which sell-by dates on food packages were falsified, were named and shamed on Thursday after the data protection ombudsman said the public interest outweighed the firms' right to safeguard their commercial reputations.

The Pest County Animal and Food Safety Authority at a news conference yesterday named companies with three foreign backers and one Hungarian. Food-safety officials started an operation in late November to examine warehouses on the outskirts of Budapest. They discovered that acetone had been used to wipe off the officially embossed sell-by date on food products, replacing the blank space with a paper sticker bearing the contents translated into Hungarian and a forged sell-by date.

The Hungarian-registered companies operating with the words MEGA and Kft in the name of each of five entities have Ukrainian, Israeli, Austrian and Hungarian backers, said the authority's head, György Virsinger. Over 100 tons of goods, about 400 different commodities, examined in warehouses in Törökbálint were found to have had their packaging and accompanying documents manipulated, he said.

Among the items were jam, muesli, chocolate, dairy products and ready-to-cook foods, he said. A million eggs of German origin had also been repackaged and were ordered destroyed. The food safety authority is co-operating with police in the continuing investigation of four warehouses in Törökbálint. (