Tampered packages were discovered this week in stores in Brookhaven, Smithtown, Huntington and Woodbury, Suffolk police said. Investigators declined to identify the specific stores by name, but police sources said that at this point in the investigation, all the tampered products were found at Stop & Shop stores.
"There's no indication that it's a terrorist act against a business or the community," said Suffolk Lt. Michael Murphy. "What we have is more of a theft than the attempt to cause harm on somebody."
The pattern, Murphy said, seems to be that someone purchases the Jell-O mix package at the store, substitutes some other powder for the mix and then returns the package to the store for a cash refund.
There is no indication that the problem goes beyond the four Long Island stores, police said.
Joyce Hodel of Chicago, a spokeswoman for the Kraft Foods Corp., said, "Kraft Foods takes the safety and quality of our products very seriously and we are investigating this situation. However, we have no reason to believe this issue originated in our plant."
Some returned packages were apparently not immediately recognized as having been tampered with, police said, and were placed back on the shelves for resale.
"We were notified by one of the stores they had somebody return a package that had been tampered with," Murphy said.
"It's an odd form of shoplifting," Murphy said. "Sometimes people do things that we don't understand and I'd put this in that category."