Woolworths gets a slap over the wrist in Adelaide for selling food past Use-by date

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th March 2013

Major supermarket chain Woolworths has been fined $7,500 for selling food past its Use-by date in Murray Bridge in South Australia.

On Friday last week (8 March), the Woolworths Ltd pleaded guilty in the Adelaide Magistrates Court to selling two packets of food past their Use-by dates in May last year. Two packets of an Asian-style lamb and rice dish that were 13 days past the Use-by date were sold in a Woolworths store in Murray Bridge last year.

Standard 1.2.5 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code requires that while the label on a package of food must include either a Use-by date or a Best Before date,

  1. Foods must include a Use-by date where the food should be consumed before a certain date because of health or safety reasons. This indicates the date from which the food is unsafe to consume, usually in circumstances where the food becomes microbiologically unsafe for consumption before it is discernibly spoiled.
  2. In circumstances where this does not apply, a Best Before date must be used. The Best Before date simply indicates that the product may have lost some of its quality after this date passes.

Accordingly, Woolworths breached the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, which is an offence under the State Food Act and can be punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 in South Australia.

Prosecutors for the municipal council told the hearing that the customer who consumed the goods suffered no ill-effects.

Woolworths evidence to the court was that the incident occurred because of human error, and that staff had undergone training since then.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Magistrate Peter Wilson said the negative publicity generated by the case would be a greater penalty for Woolworths than the fine. No conviction was recorded.