Tesco has been fined £7.5m after pleading guilty to selling food past its use-by date at three of its Birmingham stores.
Birmingham City Council brought the prosecution under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 after inspections by environmental health officers found stores in Bournville, Rubery and the city centre selling out-of-date food on several occasions.
At Birmingham Magistrates Court yesterday, Tesco pleaded guilty to a total of 22 offences across the three stores, which totalled 67 separate items.
In what is one of the biggest punishments ever for out-of-date food offences, the supermarket was ordered to pay a fine of £7,560,000 and £95,500 costs, as well as a £170 victim surcharge.
The court heard the first incident was at a Tesco Express in Bournville. Officers visited on 17 June 2015 after receiving a complaint from a member of the public and found six items on display beyond their use-by date.
Following discussions between the city council and Tesco, officers were invited back to do another check on 12 April 2016, when they found various items on display including own-brand pizza, doughballs, soup, pork belly slices, potato salad, trifle and flavoured milk, out of date for up to 17 days.
Environmental health officers received a separate complaint on 25 May 2017 and visited the Tesco Metro store in Rubery on 1 June 2017. There they found 25 items displayed for sale beyond their use-by date – including own-brand scotch eggs, quiche, children’s meals and pasta.
On visiting a third store, a Tesco Express in Birmingham city centre, on 2 June 2017, own-brand falafel and houmous wraps, grapes and strawberries, and Berry Medley pots were on display past their use-by date – with grapes having visible mould.
“Supermarkets have a duty of care to ensure the food and drink they display for sale are in date and therefore safe to consume,” said Mark Croxford, head of environmental health for Birmingham City Council. “However, visits by our officers and the public complaints show this is not always the case.
“The purpose of the use-by date is to protect the health of the consumer. The manufacturers put the date on their products to guarantee the food is safe and ignoring this date completely undermines consumer safety.
“There were numerous missed opportunities to check the dates on these products and remove them from display – and the fact incidents were found on several occasions, in different stores and over 14 months, was is a major concern.
“This case offers a warning to all retailers to ensure their stock is in date and that if found to be breaching these regulations we will take action – as we have successfully done against one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “We’re disappointed that a small number of out-of-date products were found on sale in three stores in 2016/17. The safety of our customers is always our priority and these incidents are not representative of the high standards of safety and quality we expect in Tesco stores.
“We took immediate action to address this at the time and we want to reassure our customers that we have robust procedures in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen.”