National discount retailer Poundstretcher has found itself in court after an investigation in Swansea found some of the food on its shelves was not properly labelled to warn customers of possible allergens.
A range of snacks and biscuits imported and sold by the company was found to have inadequate or missing labelling making clear they contained ingredients including wheat, eggs, and milk. It was also found that “butter crunch cookies” actually contained palm oil instead.
The problems came to light following a probe by Swansea Council’s trading standards department.
Swansea Magistrates’ Court heard that on September 18, 2019, a council officer made an unannounced visit to the Poundstretcher store in Penllergaer, Swansea, to carry out a food inspection.
Craig Davies, prosecuting, said a number products were identified as being incorrectly labelled, and the following day visits to the firm’s branches at Swansea Enterprise Park, Parc Tawe retail park, and Oxford Street in the city centre revealed they were also on the shelves of those stores.
The court heard the products in question were Aldiva Happy Teacakes, Aldiva Cikogood Bites, Aldiva Choc Cake Break mini donuts, Aldiva Happy Wheels, Gallini Orange Strudel, and Morris Coco Chips, all of which had labels which did not clearly show they contained possible allergens including milk, eggs, wheat, and sulphite.
The council officer took samples of each snack and requested the duty managers in the shops to remove the items from sale.
The solicitor said because of concerns that allergens were not properly highlighted the Food Standards Agency was notified of the council’s findings.
Mr Davies said samples of the products seized by the council officer were sent off for analysis and a report into them concluded that “the food was not labelled correctly” in accordance with regulations and “it would not be unreasonable to consider this food as being unsafe” within the meaning of the regulations due to the potential to be injurious to the health of an allergy-sensitive person.
It was also found that the Morris chocolate chip biscuits were labelled as “butter crunch cookies” but the only fat listed in the ingredients was non-dairy palm oil.
The court heard the firm subsequently accepted being responsible for importing the Aldiva products in question, said unsold quantities of the products were removed from sale immediately after the problem was flagged up, said food labelling specialists had since been employed, and said it “genuinely regretted” any shortfalls in the labelling.
Mr Davies said the products in question had been on sale throughout the UK since 2017 and the issue of labelling on other products –namely Alvida Belgium Sugar Waffles and Happy Sandwich Cookies – had previously been raised with the company but nothing had apparently been done.
Poundstretcher had previously pleaded guilty to a total of nine offences under the General Food Regulations 2004 and the Food Safety Act 1990 when he case came before the district judge sitting in the magistrates’ court.
The firm was fined a total of £24,000 and has agreed to pay £6,590 towards the cost of the prosecution.