Food additive 'fixers' face the music

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Related tags: New york city

Eastman Chemical, Aventis and eight other companies conspired for
17 years to fix the price of sorbates, a widely used food
preservative, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said in a
lawsuit.

Eastman Chemical, Aventis and eight other companies conspired for 17 years to fix the price of sorbates, a widely used food preservative, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said in a lawsuit.

Spitzer accuses the chemical companies of unlawfully restraining competition through meetings from 1979 to 1997 where they set the price of sorbates on the global market and allocated market share.

Sorbates are preservatives used to prevent the growth of microbes in food and beverages. The defendants in the lawsuit are alleged to have affected about $1 billion (€1.02bn) in sales.

"We intend to see to it that large corporations, whether located in the United States or abroad, return their ill-gotten gains to consumers who paid inflated prices for daily purchases,"​ Spitzer said in a statement.

Hard-charging Spitzer has been in the public eye with recent probes of stock offerings and analyst-research scandals that have engulfed Wall Street.

The sorbates suit was filed on Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The lawsuit seeks an award of damages equal to three times the damages proven at trial to have been sustained by New Yorkers who purchased sorbates or products containing them, as well as restitution, civil penalties and injunctive relief. Spitzer's office said it has not yet estimated how much that could be.

Five of the companies, including Eastman, Daicel Chemical Industries, and Nippon Synthetic Chemical Industry, have already pleaded guilty to criminal charges brought by the US Justice Department and have paid fines of $132 million, said Spitzer.

Related topics: Policy

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