Bashas’ admits to lying about quality of meat

 Bashas’, the operator of AJ’s (a “fine food” grocery store in Tucson and Phoenix), has entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the Department of Justice concerning meat mislabeling practices that occurred at certain locations between January 2010 and February 2012.

Bashas’ agreed to provide $1,472,487.20, which represents only the total of sales generated from the sale of the misbranded meat, to the Tucson Community Food Bank, St. Mary’s Food Bank, United Food Bank, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, and the Association of Arizona Food Banks as restitution for the misconduct.

Under the Non-Prosecution Agreement, Bashas’ admitted and accepted responsibility for the misconduct of the employees who participated in the mislabeling practices and has voluntarily undertaken a variety of remedial measures (including disciplining and/or terminating culpable employees; adopting a comprehensive compliance program to be overseen by a Chief Compliance Officer) in an effort to prevent the misconduct from ever recurring.

Between January 2010 and February 2012, Bashas’ operated 12 AJ’s locations in the Phoenix metropolitan area and an additional location in Tucson. During this time period, employees within the meat departments of some of these locations followed a practice of taking beef tenderloin steaks that were graded as “Choice” under the USDA’s meat grading system, relabeling the steaks as “Prime” (a higher grade), and then selling the mislabeled steaks to customers.

According to the DOJ, because “Prime” steak is usually more expensive than “Choice” steak (AJ’s typically sold “Prime” steak for $35.99/pound and sold “Choice” steak for $25.99/pound during the relevant time period), the result of the mislabeling practice was in the overcharging of customers. Today’s prices at AJ’s in La Encantada Center the price of “Prime” New York Strip is $26.99/pound and “Choice” ranged from  a low of $13.99 to $23.99/pound for Filet Mignon.

During the same time period, employees within the meat departments of some AJ’s locations also engaged in mislabeling practices concerning American-style “Kobe” ground beef, a special breed of beef that was typically sold for $5.99/pound. Specifically, these AJ’s locations followed a practice of adding trimmings from non-“Kobe” meat products (including “Choice” and “Prime” steaks, cuts of meat that typically sell for much more than $5.99/pound) to the “Kobe” ground beef mixture. As a result, the product was being sold by these AJ’s locations as “Kobe” ground beef when it was not, in fact, composed solely of “Kobe” ground beef.

In total, the offending AJ’s locations sold approximately 17,636 pounds of mislabeled “Prime” tenderloin steaks, and 139,861 pounds of mislabeled “Kobe” ground beef to customers, which generated $1,472,487.20 in total sales.

The United States Attorney’s Office’s entered into the Non-Prosecution Agreement with Bashas’ because there were no prior instances of misconduct associated with the store, absence of proof that Bashas’ upper management was aware of, or ratified, the misconduct, and the USDA’s conclusion that the misconduct did not create any public health risk.

Bashas’ also operates Food City and Bashas’ grocery stores. It has been widely believed for years that Food City stores, usually located in lower socio-economic neighborhoods, have sold inferior or expired food products that would not or have not been purchased at either Bashas’ brand or AJ’s brand stores.

The Robin Hood approach, which allowed Bashas’ to steal from the rich then donate what they stole to the poor, is considered by many to be the perfect example of the current U.S. Justice Department. The victims of the AJ’s mislabeling scam were ignored.

Bashas’ expired product sales continue. Within 15 minutes in one Food City store located on Tucson’s south 6th Avenue, three items were found for sale past their “best-used” date. Many items that appeared to be past their best-used date were from Mexico and had no best-used date at all.

Bashas’ came under scrutiny after pro-union forces made allegations of bad practices when they were trying to unionize the stores. Bashas’ fought hard against unionization. Because Eddie Basha, the founder of Bashas’, was a deep pocketed staunch democrat who donated heavily to democrat candidates, Arizona’s Democrat Attorney General at the time refused to do anything.

The claims of mislabeling and expired product dumping were chalked up to dirty union tactics.

Editor’s note: The photo above was taken on 8/31/13.

16 Comments on "Bashas’ admits to lying about quality of meat"

  1. Both Bashas owner and the Atty. General Democrats! I should have known ! I have shopped both Food City and Bashas many times over the years, not that they are my regular grocery store but when the weekly flyers come to my mailbox I check for sales. Once again the poor get the shaft, I will never step foot into their stores again.

    • Aric..the article says this activity occurred at AJs, not the regular Basha’s grocery store, so only the rich got cheated this time. The “poor” don’t shop at AJs.
      I don’t shop at Bashas as there isn’t one nearby. As an organization, however, Bashas had my respect for putting grocery stores in many rural southern Arizona locations that other stores thought weren’t worth their time.

      • Silvertones

        I don’t believe for a minute that Bashas built stores in rural areas out of the kindness of their heart. Do you?

  2. There’s a dilemma for you…which democrat to blame? The one who is earning money hand over fist by overcharging customers, the ones trying to strong arm the one making money hand over fist, or the one in the legal system who is happy to look the other way?

    Meanwhile the supposed elite AJ’s customers can’t tell the difference in the cuts of meat they purchased.

    • Colt Cassidy | September 1, 2013 at 7:47 am |

      I must be dirt poor… ’cause I ain’t never heard of no AJ’s. 🙁

      • You apparently don’t make many Martha Stewart recipes! The specialty ingredients in some of her recipes are only found at places like AJs. There’s one at La Encantada Mall in the Foothills.

        • Uh… Silvertones… the Foothills Mall ain’t exactly my haunt, and I ain’t never believed you to be no elitist or nothin’…

          …so how in the name of Betty Crocker do you know about all this AJ’s stuff, La Enca-whatyacallit, and specialty ingredients in Martha Stewart recipes?

          You weren’t born with a SILVER spoon in yer mouth, were you?

          SILVERtones? 🙂

        • The Truth Hurts | September 1, 2013 at 11:16 pm |

          Colt–that was hilarious!

  3. Tired Taxpayer | September 1, 2013 at 7:20 am |

    You would think that a Company owned by a “good” democrat family who is recognized as a leader in the State would at least cleanup their act once they got caught and now fined. I find it incredulous that the DOJ investigator didn’t find continuous violations if a reporter found 3 in such a short time. Just another form of redistribution. ROB in Hood strikes again.

    “Bashas’ expired product sales continue. Within 15 minutes in one Food City store located on Tucson’s south 6th Avenue, three items were found for sale past their “best-used” date. Many items that appeared to be past their best-used date were from Mexico and had no best-used date at all.”

  4. this story is “nuts” the prices are upside down as was the beef that was sold – at a slanted profit margin – there are some choice cuts that if you shop around look and taste as good as prime – which in my opinion is overpriced – the good news is the quality of the beef in the United States is very good – so good that this could happen – I’d be wider spread than this story lets on. If you’re paying $25.00 per pound for “choice” your crazy… or $35.00 prime – Choice is commonly sold at 5.00 to 7.50 maybe a bit more so it looks like the discount your getting is larger – the price scheme scam – but I’ve not seen $25.00 ‘choice’ anywhere

  5. Someone must have been caught with the meat department training video… A remake of Life cereal’s: “Give it to Mikey, he’ll eat anything!”

  6. Colt – I think the only reason I’ve found to go into AJs after spouse’s tooth was chipped on a pecan pie they sold is that they have some great fresh salmon spread for crackers (definitely a treat!) plus I’ve wandered in there a few times to look for specialty ingredients. Yes…around Thanksgiving time I do whip out a few Martha Stewart recipes…the rest of the year it’s Betty Crocker. Still have my BC cookbook (3 ring binder, red cover, 1977 vintage) and enjoy it a lot.

  7. If they did it at AJ’S the chances they’ve done it elsewhere are high,they just haven’t been caught there ..yet. So for me a corrupt store owner at one place only still means a corrupt store owner, Trust has been lost.

  8. BillyB on Sunday I went to AJ’s because I couldn’t believe those prices and “prime” was $26.99 per# and the cheapest “choice” cut was $13.99 per#. WOW

  9. Ed – try Fry’s – there’s always some meat on sale – maybe that’s the thing with Mexican food, you can make a cheaper cut of meat taste excellent – just takes some time and creative effort – I like that style of cooking, or influence.. but the BBQ does not go bare.. and its not $26.00 per pound… then again I like ox tails and my family won’t touch’em much less eat’em…mmm mmm with some beans and good tortilla – wonderfult…

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