In tainted bread case, police still smell a rat

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In tainted bread case, police still smell a rat

The mystery of whether a loaf of bread from a Paris Baguette store had a dead rat inside has gone to the National Forensic Service, which will examine the loaf with the hideous black material inside. But suspicions are still high that it was a setup by a local baker to steer customers away from his rival shop.

On Dec. 23, a baker surnamed Kim, who owns a shop in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, posted a photo on a Web site showing a loaf of bread with an unidentifiable black material inside, saying it was a rat. He also posted the receipt from the Paris Baguette branch, located 100 meters (328 feet) from his shop. On Saturday, the 34-year-old Kim voluntarily went to the police station in Suseo-dong, southern Seoul, for eight hours of interrogation - starting from 6 p.m. - and said that his son bought the chestnut bread with a rat inside.

Asked why his son bought bread from his competitor, Kim told the police, “My son complained that there was no [delicious] bread to eat in my bakery, so I handed him 10,000 won ($8.69) to buy what he wanted from somewhere else.”

Kim said his son was shocked to discover the rat, so Kim took a picture and went to an Internet cafe to upload it to the Web.

When asked why he used someone else’s national ID number when posting the picture, Kim told police, “The computer [at the Internet cafe] was already on [with someone’s ID connected]. I didn’t borrow another person’s ID deliberately.”

Some 10 people from the Paris Baguette branch were called in by the police for an hour of questioning on Thursday.

Kim will be questioned again, police said.

In the meantime, Paris Baguette’s sales plummeted after the photo was posted right before the Christmas holiday, the period when the chain earns 30 percent of its annual revenues from cakes.

“Customer trust and the value of the bakery’s brand has been hugely damaged and roughly 2,600 branches have been seriously affected,” said Geong Deok-su, a senior official of SPC Group, the chain’s owner.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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