SUPERMARKET giant Sainsbury's has had to shell out more than £100,000 in fines and court costs for selling out of date products in Haywards Heath and across West Sussex.
Sainsbury's was fined 58,000 and ordered to pay 46,500 costs by Crawley magistrates on Monday for selling food past its use by date in contravention of the Food Safety Act, a West Sussex County Council statement said this week.
The action was brought by the WSCC Trading Standards Service.
The council statement said that trading standards officers visited six Sainsbury's stores in the county and found a total of 97 products on sale up to 12 days past their use by date. In some cases the dates were obscured from view and other products were not marked with a use by date.
Sainsbury's was charged with 25 offences under the Food Safety Act 1990 and Food Labelling Regulations 1996. The charges related to stores at Haywards Heath, Horsham, Crawley, Worthing and East Grinstead.
The Horsham branch accounted for 54 of the out of date items found and 40,000 of the total penalty awarded was attributed to this store.
The council statement said that Sainsbury's said its own staff, some of whom were found not to have been properly trained, or members of the public, who Sainsbury's claimed may have moved products, were responsible for causing the offences.
In his summing up District Judge Roger Ede, said the company did not differentiate between use by dates and other durability markings.
This contrasted with Food Standards Agency's guidance, which states eating food past the use by date may present a risk of food poisoning.
The statement said that the judge was also critical of Sainsbury's because its system for checking use by dates was not properly implemented and was found to operate differently at each store.
Graeme MacPherson, head of regulatory services, said: "We are pleased with the outcome of this investigation and the fact the judge saw fit to levy a substantial fine.
"The offence of selling food after its use by date is there to protect public health. The various items of food on sale at Sainsbury's had the potential to cause harm particularly to our more vulnerable residents.
"West Sussex Trading Standards monitors compliance with a range of food safety laws to protect consumers from the potential risks to health caused by the sale of out of date food.
"We hope this result will encourage all food retailers large and small to review their procedures to ensure they properly protect consumers."
Have you bought food from Sainsbury's that was out of date? Have you been affected by this? Contact the newsdesk by calling 01444 419582 or email by clicking here.