[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
EU fines food preservative cartel
Mario Monti
Monti criticised five firms for taking part in a "conspiracy"
The European Commission has fined European and Japanese companies a total of 138.4m euros ($161m; 97m) for operating a price-fixing cartel in sorbates.

Sorbates are one of the most widely used food preservatives in Europe to prevent the development of moulds, bacteria and other micro-organisms in food.

"Because of this conspiracy European consumers paid more for many everyday products than if the companies had competed against each other," Competition Commissioner Mario Monti told a news conference.

The largest fine, of 99m euros ($115m; 70m), was levied on Germany's Hoechst. The company has since merged with France's Rhone Poulenc to create Aventis, one of the world's largest drug manufacturers.

Other companies named in a statement included Daicel Chemical Industries, Ueno Fine Chemicals and The Nippon Synthetic Chemical Industry Company.

Immunity

The Commission can fine companies up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover for price-fixing offences.

However, Japan's Chisso Corporation which helped the EU head office gather evidence, was given immunity for cooperating in the probe.

The companies met twice a year to discuss setting prices for each country and allocating volume quotas for each other.

The EU executive said it had determined that the cartel ran between December 1978 and October 1996.

"I am determined that participation in a cartel should not pay," Mr Monti added.


SEE ALSO:
Cartel crackdown takes effect
20 Jun 03  |  Business
EU busts plasterboard cartel
27 Nov 02  |  Business
EU cracks down on drinks firms
05 Dec 01  |  Business
OFT offers whistleblowers leniency
24 Mar 03  |  Business


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific