Thursday, February 12, 2004
Koreatown Supermarket Sold Spoiled, Repackaged Meat to Customers, Lawsuit Contends
BY R. STANTON HALL, Staff Writer
A large supermarket catering to the city’s Korean American and Korean immigrant communities reground spoiled meats to improve their appearance, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of two longtime customers.
The store then repackaged the meat for sale after manually altering or removing the expiration dates, the suit contends.
The lawsuit against Koreatown store ASSI Super and its parent company, the Asian food wholesaler and retailer Rhee Brothers, Inc., seeks an injunction to stop the store from continuing the alleged deceptive business practices, as well as restitution for the plaintiffs and ASSI Super’s customers, attorneys’ fees and actual and punitive damages.
“Customers are entitled to accurate information about the food they are buying for their families,” one of the plaintiffs, Eun Young Kim, said in a statement issued by Public Counsel, the public interest firm that filed the suit. “ASSI’s business practices are preventing shoppers from making informed decisions about their purchases, and I want to help put an end to these reprehensible practices.”
The lawsuit charges that ASSI Super deceived customers by:
•Repeatedly regrinding spoiled meat to improve the appearance and color of its ground beef;
•Using spoiled meat and expired products in the prepared foods and salads sold on-site;
•Concealing spoilage of poultry by repackaging and selling the goods in the freezer section; and
•Manually removing the expiration dates on many of its products.
The plaintiffs sought counsel after hearing rumors of the store’s practices, according to Hernán Vera of Public Counsel. When the firm began investigating the store, Vera said, lawyers interviewed former employees who detailed the alleged repackaging methods.
Rhee Brothers, whose Web site claims it is North America’s “largest Oriental food company,” was sued based on its corporate relationship to ASSI Super and for alleged shipping practices at Korean Farm, Inc., a Santa Fe Springs distribution site owned by the company. The suit says that by the time many of the imported products sold at ASSI Super were shipped to the store by Korean Farm, they were expired and/or spoiled, and that a significant percentage of these products were put on sale at the store instead of being returned to the distributor.
Calls to ASSI Super were not returned; a call placed to Rhee Brothers’ corporate headquarters in Columbia, Md., was not answered.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company