Generally, when a major supermarket gets caught doing something not so safe with foods, they are going to face serious penalties. However, the fine placed on Woolworths recently by a magistrate court in Adelaide was surprisingly light.
Recently, Woolworths was cited for selling foods that were well past their use-by dates. Two different incidents were noted of Asian lamb and rice pre-packaged meals that were purchased almost two weeks after their use-by date. The store responsible for the sales is located in Murray Bridge.
According to food safety law, all foods must contain a sell-by or use-by date. Any items that could become dangerous to consume from bacteria or other contamination after a certain amount of time must contain a use-by date for consumer safety. All other foods should include a sell-by date. This date will only say the food may not be as good. It doesn’t indicate any danger or contamination.
In this instance, with Woolworths, the food had a distinct use-by date, indicating that consumption of the pre-packaged meals could result in danger to the consumer health. This means that the supermarket giant was in breach of food safety codes 1.2.5 set forth by the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Commission. According to Australian law, this breach of code can result in fines up to $250,000 total.
Woolworths used two different methods of defence while admitting their error: no one became ill from eating the two packages of expired foods and the problem was a result of staff error. Woolworths went on to explain that the staff of the store in question has since undergone intensive training on the proper way to handle any expired foods. The company admitted to the wrong doing but explained how they worked to handle the matter quickly.
Perhaps because no one was adversely affected by this breach of food safety code, or perhaps because Woolworths was completely compliant in handling their errors, the judge essentially gave the company a slap on the wrist for them. The magistrate judge who handled the case stated to the press that the company would be the subject of seriously negative publicity and he felt this was a much better punishment than any fine he could charge. While Woolworths was not charged with any conviction, they were forced to pay the minimal fine to show that they committed wrongdoing.