Last week, Coles was hit with a whopping $31,500 fine, plus $10,000 in legal costs when it was found guilty of seven breaches of food safety regulations.
Originally, the supermarket giant was prosecuted for 22 breaches of the regulations, to seven of which they pleaded guilty. Most breaches involved offering out-of-date food for sale, with others describing misleading labelling and the presence of mould on food. Many of the food items listed are considered "high risk" for food safety and include foods such as deli meats and fresh dips.
What Were The Breaches?
The initial investigation highlighted 22 breaches of food safety, discovered on April 4 2013 during an Onkaparinga Council Food Safety inspection.
The Breaches Included:
- 1 x 200g container of Yumis Authentic Hommus Toppers marinated eggplant and za’atar that “exhibited mould”.
- 8 x 125g packets of Moira Mac’s Australian chicken breast slices with an April 1 use-by date.
- 6 x 200g packets of Primo Party Bites kabana with an April 2 use-by date.
- 11 x 100g packets of Primo thinly-sliced Spanish-style chorizo salami with an April 2 use-by date.
- 4 x 100g packets of Primo thinly-sliced pancetta with an April 2 use-by date.
- 5 x 300g packets of Primo diced bacon-style pieces with a March 29 use-by date.
- 1 x 200g packet of Primo Party Bites cabanossi with an April 2 use-by date.
- 3 x 250g packets of Don shaved leg ham champagne with a March 27 use-by date.
- 3 x 250g packets of Don shaved roast chicken with a March 21 use-by date.
- 2 x 200g packets of Primo thinly-sliced English leg ham with a March 28 use-by date.
- 3 x 200g containers of Yumis Authentic Hommus Toppers sweet basil and pine nut with a March 28 use-by date.
- 8 x 150g containers of Wattle Valley Chunky Dips baby spinach with cashew and parmesan with a March 23 use-by date.
- 6 x 200g containers of Yumis Authentic Hommus Toppers marinated eggplant and za’atar with a March 25 use-by date.
- 2 x 1.6kg packets of Latina Fresh lasagne Angus beef and hearty vegetables with an April 3 use-by date.
- 11 x 75g packets of Golburn Valley fresh sliced red apples with an April 3 use-by date.
- 11 x 75g packets of Golburn Valley fresh sliced red apples with an April 2 use-by date.
- 11 x 75g packets of Golburn Valley fresh sliced green apples with an April 2 use-by date.
- 9 x “four-packs” of Golburn Valley fresh sliced green apples with an April 2 use-by date.
- 4 x “four-packs” of Golburn Valley fresh sliced red apples with an April 2 use-by date.
- 1 x 200g packet of Primo thinly-sliced turkey breast with an April 3 use-by date.
- 8 x 150g containers of Wattle Valley Chunky Dips basil with cashew and parmesan with a March 26 use-by date.
- Multiple containers of Pronoto E Fresco Aussie Mix “which were labelled in a manner that was likely to mislead or deceive”.
What Did The Magistrate Have To Say?
Magistrate David Whittle said that the breaches could have been prevented, although acknowledged that it was a new store with new employees, and that the breaches occurred over a particularly busy public holiday weekend.
"The defendant is a large company with considerable resources and a wealth of experience that has opened many new stores in its 82 years of business in Australia. It should have been aware that greater risks of non-compliance were inherent in the early stages of trading in a new store."
What Did Coles Have To Say?
Coles accepted responsibility for the incident and explained that when they cannot meet their own high standards, they take accountability for this and fix the problem. A spokesperson further confirmed that they "take food safety seriously" and that their South Australian stores have "had an outstanding record in this area".
What Did Food Standards Australia New Zealand Have To Say?
Lorraine Belanger from the Food Standards Authority confirmed the risky nature of selling products past their use-by date. "It is very important to keep on top of use-by-dates, especially for vulnerable sectors of the community, such as pregnant or sick people, or people with an immune deficiency," she said. Belanger further confirmed that the easiest way for food businesses to prevent breaches such as these is to keep across the Food Standards Code and any changes made to it via the Food Standards New Zealand website and other publications.