Hellers fined almost $40,000 for mispackaged sausages
Small goods manufacturer Hellers is facing penalties after three children suffered allergic reactions caused by consuming mispackaged Sizzlers sausages.
Cheese Sizzlers were packaged as Original Sizzlers by staff at Hellers’ Wiri factory, resulting in the children becoming sick in September 2017. The company has been fined almost $40,000 and ordered to pay a total of $15,000 to the three children. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said this is the first time that tougher penalties introduced in the Food Act 2014 have been imposed.
“Three children who were allergic to milk complained of allergic reactions after consuming the mispackaged sausages. One had a moderate reaction, one a moderate to severe reaction and one a severe anaphylactic reaction that required hospital treatment,” said MPI Manager of Food Compliance Melinda Sando.
Hellers recalled the affected product after hearing these reports, but Sando said the incident could have been prevented if staff had cross-checked labels and the product itself before packing.
“The company had a duty to ensure its products were safe and suitable. Proper labelling of allergens is a key requirement in discharging this duty and consumers should be able to rely on food labelling when making their purchasing decisions. This is especially so for those with food allergies,” she said.
Hellers pleaded guilty to one Food Act 2014 charge of failing to ensure food is safe and suitable. Since the incident, the company has put in place additional staff training and procedures to prevent the problem from recurring.
Allergy New Zealand’s Chief Executive Mark Dixon said the prosecution will encourage food businesses to take food allergen management seriously and provide consumers with accurate information about the content of food allergens, even trace amounts.
He said there has been a significant increase in the last 12 months in food recalls for undeclared allergens, which is concerning for consumers. Those suffering from food allergies “need the food industry to comply with regulations on food allergen management and labelling so they are able to access safe and suitable food wherever they are”.
Dixon said this incident should remind companies to use a range of communication channels to reach their customers during a food recall, as mislabelled products with undeclared allergens could have “tragic consequences”.
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