(April 17, 11:15 a.m.) Food processor SK Foods, Monterey, Calif., is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Agents from the IRS Criminal Investigation Division searched the company’s Ryan Ranch office and at least one other location April 15, according to media reports.

Arlette Lee, public information officer for the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, said a search warrant had been executed, but would not give any details on the nature of the joint investigation because it was issued under a sealed affidavit, according to media reports.

Scott Salyer, president and chief executive officer, issued a letter April 16 to the company’s employees via e-mail through the company’s public relations agency to assure them that the company was still in business. He stated that the company’s legal team was addressing the search and seizure, and reassuring customers of the safety of the company’s products.

“We understand that this investigation is still in its preliminary stages, and we have not yet been provided with specific allegations,” he said in the letter. “However, from what we have been told, we categorically deny and disagree with the allegations. We will vigorously defend our products and business practices in every way possible, while cooperating fully with the investigation.”

He said the company would work to clear up any misconceptions to set the record straight, but did not elaborate on the nature of the accusations.

SK Foods has two facilities in California that process tomatoes and chili peppers, four in Gisborne, New Zealand, and one in Echuca, Australia. Its fresh products are sold under the American Classic brand, which includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, romaine and mixed vegetables.

In April 2007, Salyer American Fresh Foods Inc., Salinas, became a division of SK Foods after Scott Salyer consolidated the two companies and assumed full ownership.

The Salyer family has been in agriculture for more than 80 years. Salyer American Fresh Foods was established in 1986, when its farming operation, Salyer American, was diversified. The Salyer family then established SK Foods in 1990.

In 2003, SK Foods became the sole owner of Cedenco Foods Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand, with its facilities in New Zealand and Australia, as well as the Colusa County Canning Co., Colusa, Calif., according to the company’s Web site.

Government and company sources were not available at press time.