Giant Food Inc. has suspended the head of its meat department and another executive in connection with a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation of a meat broker that does business with the huge grocery chain.
USDA officials will not say what is being investigated in the probe being conducted by the Packers and Stockyards Administration, which has jurisdiction over antitrust violations and trade practice matters in the meat business, including price-fixing and commercial bribery.
The inquiry does not involve questions of meat quality or the prices paid by Giant customers for meat, sources familiar with the investigation said. The investigation centers on an unidentified meat broker, who acts as a middleman between supermarkets and meat packers.
Giant itself "is not a target of the investigation," a spokesman for the chain said yesterday. He said USDA officials asked Giant not to discuss the investigation.
Sources said that Morris Hamberger, Giant's vice president for meat and seafood operations, as well as another executive in his department, had been suspended for 30 days by the company.
Hamberger could not be reached for comment. A secretary answering his office telephone said he was "off for a while."
Giant officials refused to comment on or confirm the suspensions.