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Amapola Market ‘Masa Mess’ Continues, Where is the City and Downey Council?

By Brian Hews and Tammye McDuff

A favorite staple on many Sothern California Christmas tables are homemade tamales. Amapola Market is a longtime family-owned market in Downey and has provided the ingredients for this time honored family tradition of for years. However, Downey police had to be called to the market on Christmas Day when angry customers began showing up and complaining that the store’s masa made their tamales inedible.

Now touted as the “masa mess” long lines of customers went around the block as they stood in line with receipts and bad tamales.

Apparently Amapola sold masa that was below the quality that customers were accustomed to. The bad masa resulted in the tamales not cooking properly. A preliminary investigation determined that the defective masa was sold between December 23rd and December 24th and stems from a defective corn bought from a national provider, of which the store has been a customer of for over 15 years. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health was investigating claims tamales made with the masa had made some people sick.

The store eventually had to close and lock its doors Tuesday after apparently running out of cash due to the numerous refunds. On Wednesday, a long line of people stood outside the store again waiting for refunds.

Chief Financial Officer Carlos Galvan, whose family owns the chain of markets, acknowledged the bad masa was responsible for the ruined tamales and said refunds, would be given to anyone who purchased the product at their store, even if they didn’t have a receipt.

Amapola reopened Wednesday to long lines of people still trying to get a refund.

Spokesman Luis Alvarado was also outside the market and told reporters the store would again be giving refunds, but customers now needed to show a receipt proving they purchased the masa at the store for a ‘no questions asked’ refund. The store would also consider claims from customers who had additional costs for other ingredients ruined by the masa.

Those who purchased their masa on a different date, or who didn’t have a receipt, can fill out a claim that will be investigated by the store. The claims can be filled out online and there is no expiration date on getting a refund.

Alvarado was hired specifically to handle the masa mess, “For those people who didn’t have a receipt, or any kind of proof, we have a separate line where we’re giving them a claim form to fill out so we can start the investigation,” Alvarado said. For every 10 pounds of masa, customers with a receipt also received an extra $20 for ingredients they bought to make their tamales.

“Our first priority is to make sure that we have all our customers refunded for the trouble that they went through,” Galvan said. The Market has been in the community for 55 years, “this is the first time something like this has ever happened at the market.”

A statement was posted on the Amapola’s Facebook page and website stating that they pride themselves on serving the best quality masa and at no point did they encounter evidence to believe there are health risks and a formal investigation is underway.

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