US food group Heinz has agreed to “return about 10 million ounces of ketchup to the people,” after California district attorneys ruled it had been underfilling millions of ketchup bottles. An investigation into the case, which lasted four years, came to a climax yesterday (29 November) when Heinz agreed to pay US$180 000 in civil penalties and costs and promised to overfill ketchup bottles next year at the cost of US$650 000. The group refused, however, to admit wrongdoing.

Heinz officials explained that the underfilling occurred when a changeover to a new bottle allowed liquid to leak. Thomas Papageorge, head of the Los Angeles district attorney’s consumer-protection office, confirmed that “No one is alleging that this was intentional fraud.”