The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announced last week that Jason Eric Kay of Longmont, Colo., had been sentenced for removing and replacing labels on Gatorade bottles earlier this year.
Beginning in January 2010, Kay made at least 11 separate purchases of various Gatorade products from Safeway and King Soopers stores in Colorado. He took the Gatorade products home, removed the labels from them, and produced new false labels bearing a picture of golfer Tiger Woods and his estranged wife Elin Woods on one side, and the word “unfaithful” in large block letters on the other. The bottles were numbered like limited edition prints, with 67 of a planned 100 being distributed.
In an arrest affidavit, an FDA agent said Kay told him that he made the labels as “pop art” and didn’t realize he had done anything wrong. Kay said he hadn’t opened any of the bottles or tampered with their contents, a fact later confirmed by Gatorade.
“From the onset, our primary concern has been the safety of our customers,” Gatorade spokeswoman Karen May told Food Safety News in January.
Kay pled guilty to adulteration and removing a label of food while held for sale, a misdemeanor, on Feb. 19, and was sentenced Monday to serve 2 years probation and pay a $1,000 fine. Before entering the guilty plea, Kay stood accused of three separate counts that could have resulted in fines up to $450,000 and four years in jail.
According to the Office of Criminal Investigations press release regarding Kay’s sentencing, “Kay made labels for Gatorade A.M. Tropical-Mango flavored products, but placed the labels on bottles that were not Gatorade A.M. Tropical-Mango flavored products, but were, in fact, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange flavor. Additionally, the Gatorade A.M. labels that the defendant placed on the bottles of Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange represented that the product contained Vitamin C, when, in fact, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange does not contain Vitamin C. The actions of the defendant caused the product to be misbranded.
“The plea agreement further states that at least one consumer purchased a bottle at King Soopers believing the product to be Gatorade A.M. Tropical-Mango flavor which was, in fact, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange flavor. The consumer registered complaints with King Soopers as well as PepsiCo North America and received remuneration.”
U.S. Attorney David Gaouette commented on the case, saying, “This case is a perfect example of how the public safety and health can be impacted by such conduct. The public needs to be confident that the product they purchase from a retailer is the same as when it left the manufacturer.”