Calgary police urge grocery shoppers to check food purchases

CALGARY — Three new cases of food tampering have prompted police to urge all Calgarians to check the food they buy for foreign objects that may be hidden inside.

CALGARY — Three new cases of food tampering have prompted police to urge all Calgarians to check the food they buy for foreign objects that may be hidden inside.

“We ask all Calgarians to thoroughly inspect all of their food purchases from any grocery or retail store just to ensure that the food is safe and tamper-free,” police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said Wednesday.

Earlier this month a Calgary Co-op customer was charged with mischief after pins and sewing needles were found in bread and other products.

Now, three new cases of tampering have been discovered at different Sobeys outlets in south Calgary. In one instance, a customer found a metal item inside an avocado and two other customers found pieces of metal inside kaiser buns.

“They were embedded to the point where they were not visible,” Brookwell said. “We’re talking significant risk and possible harm or injury.”

So far, no one has been injured.

Brookwell said police have been investigating the latest cases since Tuesday and don’t know if there’s any relation to the earlier tampering.

“We don’t know if we’re dealing with an employee, an ex-employee, a disgruntled customer, somebody that’s copycatting the other incidents.”

A spokesman for Sobeys said the tampering does not seem widespread. Each of the three stores had one case and daily sweeps have not turned up other contaminated items, said Mike Lupien.

“What concerns us is we are the second chain to be impacted by potential food tampering, and so it’s just something customers should be aware of regardless of where they’ve purchased their product. They may want to give a double-check,” he said.

Lupien wouldn’t say exactly what type of metal object was found in the food.

He did say security has been increased at all stores in south Calgary and consumers shouldn’t be worried.

“We’re hoping they’re just isolated incidents, that it’s not leading to anything bigger.”

A shopper at a northeast Safeway in Calgary said she wasn’t suprised to hear of the latest cases.

“I do look closely when I buy my fruits and vegetables to see if they are good and solid,” said Anne Orr.

“It is sad but what can you do? That’s how life is nowadays, you have to be careful with what you are doing.”

Bonnie Smith said she doesn’t often think about contamination when she’s shopping, but the news has given her pause.

“I think about it a little bit because you never know what these things might be in,” she said.

“I think it’s kind of a copycat thing. Somebody saw what happened before.”

Such crimes highlight how much of our food safety system is based on trust, said Rick Holley, a food safety expert at the University of Manitoba.

“It shows our vulnerability,” he said. “And our dependence upon the integrity of the employees who work at food manufacturing, distributing and retailing locations to deliver on the promise that the food we are buying is as safe as it can be.”

It’s not possible to have enough rules to ensure that absolutely every piece of food will be safe to eat, especially when it comes to unwrapped, fresh food, he said.

Brookwell said most of the items tampered with have been fresh produce and bakery items or wrapped items such as cheese. But he warned that shoppers shouldn’t consider pre-wrapped items safe.

Food tampering is extremely rare, he added.

“The protection of the product, I’m absolutely confident, is paramount in the minds of all of these stores. But the fact is that somebody that is committed or wants to do this type of thing, there will be a way that they can.”

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