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26 January 2023

Foodstuffs South Island botches second recall in 14 months

Food safety watchdog carrying out another investigation.

Foodstuffs South Island has put recalled products back on sale at supermarkets for the second time since late 2021, despite a previous warning from New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) about a mishandled recall.

Berry recall

In mid-January, recalled Pams Mixed Frozen Berries ended up back in the display chillers of four Foodstuffs South Island stores (FSSI). The berries were part of a precautionary recall issued by NZ Food Safety because of a possible link to hepatitis A.

While only 10 bags of the berries were sold, it’s the second time in 14 months recalled products have ended up back on sale.

In November 2021, Chelsea Sugar recalled batches of Pams and Woolworths brand raw and brown sugar because of low-level lead contamination.

Just a few weeks later, FSSI and Woolworths put out another recall because the sugar was put back on shelves.

NZFS deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said investigations were carried out at both supermarket chains, and both “received warnings from NZFS”.

“Systems were reviewed and corrective actions put in place – with NZFS oversight.”

Whether the same mistake happened, despite the NZFS review, is unclear until a full investigation is carried out.

Arbuckle said: “The erroneous release of recalled sugar and frozen berries highlights the risk of quarantined products being held in large distribution centres, which by their nature are designed to get product out to market.”

Foodstuffs spokesperson Emma Wooster said: “We always take food safety incredibly seriously and we are working closely with NZFS to identify how this error occurred, so we can take all the right steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

NZFS is unable to comment further while the investigation is ongoing.

What happens if a business mishandles a recall?

If there are problems with a food business, an officer from NZFS may get involved.

Usually, minor problems can be dealt with by providing advice. For more serious issues, a food safety officer may issue directions or infringement notices, or initiate a prosecution.

Arbuckle said it’s NZFS’ job to “protect consumers from unsafe food”.

“When businesses fail to follow the rules, we will take action and, in some situations, this can result in the case going to court.”

What are the rules about food recalls?

  • All food businesses must have a recall process in place, and practise it, to ensure product recalls run smoothly.

  • Most food recalls are done voluntarily by businesses.

  • Once a business issues a recall, it needs to advise the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which ensures the recall is carried out correctly.

  • Consumers can report food safety issues by calling MPI (0800 00 83 33).

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