August 30, 2007
The Law of Tomato Season
Posted by David Zaring

New Yorkers love their greenmarket produce.  And rightly so this time of year, though the commitment to local gardens makes a March full of sauteed fiddlehead fern salads really dreary.  Maybe that's why Hunts Point Market dealers often bribe USDA inspectors to show up particularly quickly when a shipment of actually fresh vegetables comes in, or, sometimes, to rate produce as worse than it really is, so that buyers can purchase low, and resell high. 

In honor of tomato season, but unseasonably late in a schedule that usually features a summer off for the  court, the D C Circuit recently barred a veteran Hunts Point outfit from participating in the USDA's Hunts Point inspection scheme.  It agreed with the Department of Agriculture that one of the firm's vice presidents gave a USDA inspector fifty bucks every time he came for inspection, in exchange for which the inspector allegedly did what the firm wanted.

Fifty bucks ain't a lot of money.  Which is why I note with slight sadness the passing of Kleiman & Hochberg, Inc, traduced by an employee with a too-close relationship with a regulator, and condemned to dealing, from this point forward, in uninspected fruits and vegetables.  Could it possibly have been worth it to bribe the USDA on the penny ante level?  The opinion may be found here.

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