Butchery manager bust adding 'fresh' expiry date to old chickens

Durban Spar risks health of consumers to save a buck

29 January 2019 - 11:16
Imraan Ahmed found altered sell by dates on fresh chickens sold at the Starwood SuperSpar in Durban.
Imraan Ahmed found altered sell by dates on fresh chickens sold at the Starwood SuperSpar in Durban.
Image: Wendy Knowler

What should a retailer do with its stock of fresh chickens when it reaches its sell-by date?

Removing it from sale would be the right move, but instead a butchery manager at a SuperSpar in Phoenix, Durban, printed fresh labels - illegally falsifying the date the chickens were packed by the supplier and extending the sell-by date by four days!

Imraan Ahmed bought one of those chickens from the Starwood SuperSpar on Sunday January 27, believing them to have been packed on that day, with a sell-by date of January 31.

In fact, the supplier, Sovereign Foods, had originally printed the pack date as January 21 and put the “best before” date as January 27.

To add to the confusion, because chickens are perishable, date marks are a safety issue, so those chickens should by law have been marked with a use-by date, making it very clear to consumers that the chickens should not be consumed after that date.

It is illegal, in terms of South Africa’s food labeling regulations, to alter or remove any date mark. It’s also illegal to sell food beyond its use-by date because of the health risk that poses to consumers.

The regulations do not specify the use of “sell-by” dates, but they are used by supermarkets as the date by which they must remove such food from their fridges. Customers typically eat those products within a day or two, having stored them in their own fridges.

In this case, the manufacturer’s intention was clearly for those fresh chickens not to be consumed after Sunday.

Sovereign’s original dates had been obscured or totally covered by the new “expiry” dates, said Ahmed.

When he discovered the original dates on the chicken he’d bought, he raised the issue with the butchery manager.

“He was very abrupt,” he said. "I was told that the chickens only go on the shelf four days after they receive them, and that’s why they put their own labels on them.”

Spar’s retail operations manager Roelf Venter said the retail group had stringent food process procedures in place. “We will ensure our food safety specialist and our QPRO [food safety auditing] team follow up with the store to ensure that they follow due processes,” he said.

“Our QPRO team does visit stores every quarter, where they do a full audit and any necessary staff training. We will ensure an additional visit is done to this store.”

Venter said the Spar group takes food safety very seriously. “These exceptions are not acceptable. We will do everything in our power to eliminate them,” he said.

By Tuesday morning, Spar had made contact with Ahmed to offer to make good on the company’s standard “double your money back quality guarantee” on its fresh products.