Heinz officials are investigating what they're calling an abandoned Heinz Tomato Ketchup counterfeiting operation, conducted in a warehouse in Dover, New Jersey. They were tipped to it by warehouse tenants when flies began appearing -- the bottles had exploded.

The running theory is that would-be profiteers purchased traditional Heinz Ketchup in large quantities and transferred it into fraudulent plastic bottles labeled "Simply Heinz," a premium Heinz brand made with sugar in place of high fructose corn syrup.

Once abandoned, the unwatched bottles of ketchup fermented. Pressure built up inside the bottles until they exploded in a giant, ketchup-y mess.

counterfeit ketchup operation
Photo credit: Dover Police


When Simply Heinz was introduced in 2010, Heinz announced that 32-ounce bottles would cost the same as 36-ounce bottles of regular ketchup. In effect, Simply Heinz is slightly more expensive per ounce than the company's regular ketchup -- perhaps providing motivation to counterfeit it.

It's unclear how long the operation was running, but Heinz told the Star-Ledger that it didn't think things 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.

But Heinz can't say if the bottles were ever purchased, or it they were contaminated in any way. Dover police aren't involved, but Heinz is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation.

There have several high-profile instances in recent years of counterfeit food. In 2011, some experts estimated that about a third of all honey in the U.S., imported from China, was tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. Tainted olive oil is also a noted problem, as recounted in the 2011 book "Extra Virginity" by Tom Mueller.

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  • #1: America's Choice Tomato Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://apfreshonline.com/pages_aboutUs_OB.asp?section=ac" target="_hplink">Find out where you can buy America's Choice</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "Classic." "Perfect texture." "Is this Heinz?" "Tastes like the ketchup I grew up with." "Tomatoey!" "This is the standard by which all ketchups should be measured."

  • #2: Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://www.heinzketchup.com/Products.aspx" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "This really tastes like tomatoes." "Good! Normal!" "This is so classic." "Smooth texture and nicely balanced flavors."

  • #3: Heinz Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup (

    <em><a href="http://www.heinzketchup.com/Products.aspx" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "Perfect blend of salt, acid and smooth texture." "Tangy. I like this a lot." "Is this Heinz?" "Pretty straightforward." "Bright, but corn syrupy." [Editor's note: This doesn't have corn syrup in it ... only sugar!]

  • #4: Heinz Tomato Ketchup

    <em>http://www.heinzketchup.com/Products.aspx/em> <strong>Comments: </strong>"This has the perfect amount of vinegar." "Is this Heinz?" "This tastes familiar." "Quite sweet."

  • #5: Green Way Organic Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://apfreshonline.com/pages_aboutUs_OB.asp?section=ac" target="_hplink">Find out where you can buy Green Way</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "Rich and peppery." "Reminds me of the high school cafeteria ketchup." "Sweet and acidic, but I like it." "Good mix of classic flavor and spice." "VERY tangy, with strong vinegar notes." "Smoky, me gusta."

  • #6: Hunt's Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://www.huntsketchup.com/products.jsp" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a> </em> <strong>Comments: </strong>"This doesn't taste like it even has tomatoes in it." "Average tasting, and a little too thick." "Nice and acidic." "Lots of vinegar!

  • #7: 365 Everyday Value Organic Tomato Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/" target="_hplink">Where to buy 365 Everyday Value products</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "There's a lot of sugar/corn syrup in this." "Definitely some noticeable spices in this." "Astringent."

  • Tied for #8: Heinz No Salt Added Tomato Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://www.heinzketchup.com/Products.aspx" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a> </em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "This is pretty average." "This has a solid, inoffensive, deep flavor."

  • Tied for #8: Heinz Reduced Sugar Tomato Ketchup (With Sucralose)

    <em><a href="http://www.heinzketchup.com/Products.aspx" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "There's a serious aftertaste." "Heinz?" "Is this Heinz?" "Strange aftertaste."

  • #10: 365 Everyday Value Tomato Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/" target="_hplink">Where to buy 365 Everyday Value products</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "Very, very sugary." "Sweet like funnel cake."

  • #11: Organicville Organic Ketchup (With Agave)

    <em><a href="http://organicvillefoods.com/products/condiments/organic-ketchup/" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "Good amount of spices." "The flavor is cinnamon-y." "Smoky." "Tastes like marinara sauce." "Tastes like canned tomatoes."

  • #12: Annie's Naturals Organic Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://www.annies.com/products/category-16" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "Tastes like marinara sauce." "A little sweet, but good." "Corn syrup-y."

  • #13: Muir Glen Organic Tomato Ketchup

    <em><a href="http://www.muirglen.com/products/product_detail.aspx?cat=7" target="_hplink">View nutritional information</a></em> <strong>Comments:</strong> "Too much like tomato puree." "Odd texture, but the taste is ok." "Heavy on vinegar." "Coarse texture but really tasty." "The texture is like applesauce!"

  • #14: Sir Kensington's Gourmet Scooping Ketchup

    <a href="http://sirkensingtons.com/" target="_hplink"><em>Learn more about Sir Kensington's</em></a> <strong>Comments:</strong> "This would be a delicious ragu, but it's not what I'd expect from ketchup." "Tastes like baked beans." "Very chunky -- this is more like tomato sauce." "This is more of a chutney."

  • #15: Trader Joe's Organic Ketchup

    <a href="http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article.asp?article_id=22" target="_hplink"><em>Learn more about Trader Joe's ketchup</em></a> <strong>Comments:</strong> "This is incredibly bitter." "Sour!"