According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger
, officials uncovered what they believe to be an abandoned counterfeit ketchup scam in a Dover, N.J. warehouse.
Officials believe the ketchup to be real, but Heinz has verified that the labels on the bottles are fraudulent. It is theorized that the culprit bought traditional Heinz Ketchup, faked Heinz' "Simply Heinz" premium bottles and poured the ketchup into the fabricated bottles.
Due to the fermentation process that takes place when sugar is added to the acidic tomatoes and vinegar, the ketchup had begun to explode. Live Science reported the moving of ketchup from one container to another could set the conditions.
"When you get expansion and containers blowing up like that, a lot of the time it's from gas buildup within the container, and that's usually a red flag for microbial growth," said Rutgers University food chemist Thomas Hartman, reporte Live Science
. "By transferring the ketchup from one container to another, they could have breached the [containers'] sterility."
Coupled with being left in a hot warehouse, pressure built up inside the seal-breached bottles which led to the eventual explosions.
It is not believed the fake ketchup was widely distributed; almost 2,000 bottles were found with close to 50,000 pounds of ketchup, reported CNN/News 12
"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, Heinz vice president of corporate & government affairs in an e-mail, reported the Times-Ledger.
"Simply Heinz" is a premium variety the company introduced in 2010
that does not contain any high fructose corn sweetener, but instead uses sugar to sweeten the condiment.
Authorities, however, are not sure whether or not any other ingredients were added to the ketchup inside the bottles containing the faked labels.
At this point no one has been arrested in connection with the exploding ketchup. Authorities have traced the individual who had leased the warehouse space, and Heinz has reportedly verified they never sold that individual any ketchup directly.
CNN/News 12 reported while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigates, Heinz has said they would clean up the mess in the warehouse.