‘Sell-by dates must be respected’

2014-08-14 00:00

THERE is a reason why sell-by dates must be adhered to, warned professor Garry Osthoff, of the University of the Free State, yesterday.

Oshoff, who heads food and diary sciences at the university, said the expiry date of food items are not some thumbsuck.

“The sell-by dates are determined through research and must be respected.”

His was reacting to a recent investigation by the National Consumer Commission which found that 84 retailers in two provinces, including large groups like Spar and Shoprite do not adhere to certain standards regarding sell-by dates on food items.

“In June our inspectors visited 54 retailers in the North West and 30 in Mpumalanga. What we found was a cause for worry,” said Anton van der Merwe, head of the commission’s corporate services. Many of the shops failed totally to meet the legal standards and frequently exposed the consumer to food poisoning,” he said, citing examples of products on shelves which had expired a year go.

“Meat was also sold without the right labels and many of the labels had been tampered with.”

Van der Merwe said in some instances incorrect expiry dates were put on fresh produce. He said the 84 shops had been warned they were breaking the law and staff would be prosecuted if they did not meet the required standards. He said the commission was far from toothless. “We are like a tiger with very sharp teeth, and we view this [expire date transgressions] in a serious light,” he said, adding guilty parties can be imprisoned for up to a year.

Van der Merwe said the large retail chains, like Shoprite and Spar, should investigate their franchisees.

“They must not distance themselves from this, but give instructions to ensure the standard are adhered to at all times.”

Spokesperson for Shoprite Checkers Sarita van Wyk said the retailer had already ­investigated the issue and instituted disciplinary steps where applicable.

Van Wyk said no labels were tampered with in any Shoprite stores in the two provinces. Spar could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

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