A Sainsbury’s store manager offered a customer £20 to ‘pay for medication’ when she complained that turkey sold past its use-by date had made her feel sick, a court heard yesterday.
The supermarket giant was fined £15,000 with £8,000 costs after pleading guilty at London’s City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court to seven counts of breaching food labelling regulations.
Food that should not have been on sale was discovered at two busy Sainsbury’s Local stores in central London – including pâté and salad dressing a month out of date, the court heard.
On June 26 last year one customer bought a packet of Bernard Matthews Norfolk Turkey Breast from the company’s store at 112-114 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge.
Sarah Ellis, prosecuting for Westminster City Council, told the court the woman took it home and ate some of it before realising it was 11 days past its use-by date.
She said: ‘Having noticed that it was beyond that date quite substantially, she says she felt generally sick.
It gave her something of a fright
‘It had a psychological effect and gave her something of a fright.’
Manager offered £20
The woman returned to the store the next day to complain and demanded to see the manager.
The prosecutor said: ‘He took her to the till point and waved at her a £20 note, telling her this would pay for any medication she used while she felt sick.’
When the customer asked why he was offering her this money, the manager replied that it was ‘for the bad experience she had suffered,’ the court heard.
Sainsbury’s pleaded guilty today to selling this out-of-date turkey breast and to exposing for sale at the same store a bottle of its own-brand mustard and honey fresh dressing that was 33 days past its use-by date.
The other five counts relate to one item that was sold and four others that were exposed for sale at the Sainsbury’s Local shop at Victoria Station in December 2006.
These included nine packets of own-brand smooth Brussels pâté – 31 days past its use-by date – and a Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons Dessert.
A further eight counts against the supermarket were dropped today.
Passing sentence, presiding magistrate Esmond Jackson said: ‘There clearly has been a failure in these two stores from the systems Sainsbury’s have in place.’
Karen Taylor, for Sainsbury’s, said the company was ‘absolutely saddened’ by what had happened and stressed there was no question of the food being unsafe.
The company is absolutely saddened by what happened
The supermarket’s staff undergo a ‘vast amount of training’ and there have been only a handful of other instances where out-of-date food was on sale, she added.
But she admitted that the two employees at the Victoria store tasked with checking use-by dates could not reach the shelf on which the pâté was displayed.
Richard Block, operations manager for food, health and safety at Westminster City Council, said: ‘The consequences of eating out of date meat and pâté – particularly if it’s a whole month past its use by date – could be extremely serious.
‘We are grateful to the shoppers for bringing these incidents to our attention and hope that the public disgrace of being found guilty in a court of law will prompt rapid change in some of our highest profile supermarkets.
‘We hope this case will highlight the fact all supermarkets, large or small, need to keep a close eye on use-by dates to maintain public health.’
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