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ID NEWS: ConAgra, Sara Lee refute allegations of improper dealings with USF

ConAgra Foods, Inc., Omaha, NE, and Sara Lee Corp., Chicago, responding to a story in today's Wall Street Journal, have refuted any implications of impropriety in their dealings with U.S. Foodservice (USF), Columbia, MD. The Royal Ahold broadliner subsidiary is currently under investigation for improper booking of supplier promo allowances.

"Last month, when Ahold announced that it had found accounting irregularities in its U.S. Foodservice business, we immediately reviewed all of our records associated with each of our foodservice distributors and confirmed that our conduct and accounting was appropriate and accurate," states C. Steven McMillan, chairman, president and ceo of Sara Lee. "Moreover, we have not been contacted by any investigators--either from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission or Ahold's outside auditor, Deloitte & Touche--regarding our relationship with U.S. Foodservice. We are prepared to cooperate fully should any of these investigative bodies contact us. To the best of our knowledge, we have always conducted our business with U.S. Foodservice and all of our customers with the highest ethical standards."

Similarly, ConAgra refutes any suggestion of improper conduct. "Recent news accounts to the contrary with respect to ConAgra Foods' relationship with Royal Ahold are misleading," comments Chris Kircher, vice president, communications. "ConAgra Foods' sales to Royal Ahold reflect ordinary and appropriate business practices in the foodservice industry, and ConAgra Foods is not aware of any financial impact to ConAgra Foods because of the Royal Ahold investigation."

Like all suppliers to Royal Ahold in the ordinary course of business, ConAgra received requests from Ahold's outside auditors to confirm amounts payable by ConAgra, Kircher notes. "ConAgra Foods systematically refused to verify confirmation requests that were inaccurate."

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