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Loblaws changing best before dates to sell products

alexd

Administrator
Staff member

Grocery store secrets: Best-before dates tampered, workers claim

By Megan Griffith-Greene / Marketplace, CBC News Posted: Nov 06, 2015

CBC's Marketplace

For five years, Mohammad Saffari has worked as a bakery clerk at a Loblaws store in Montreal. He says he was told to change best-before dates on fresh or frozen bakery items such as cheesecakes, muffins and pastries that were weeks or months past the best-before date.

Saffari says he was told to take cheesecakes that had passed their best-before dates and add toppings, so they would appear fresh.

He says cakes were then given a new best-before date and put back on the shelves for sale.

"I decorate it and I'm selling expired stuff for $13.99," he says. "I won't eat this cheesecake myself. But I sell it to you."

Watch the full investigation Friday at 8 p.m. on TV and online
'You think other stores don't do it?'

Saffari approached Marketplace after he became frustrated with being asked to change dates. "I couldn't take it anymore," he says. "I was on sick leave for three to four months because of the pressure; because what you're doing you're not proud of and you're forced to do it."

Supermarket insiders say cakes were cut in half or retopped with fresher items and the best-before date extended. (CBC)

After speaking up about this on a number of occasions, Saffari decided to secretly record a conversation with his supervisor where he asks about the practice. He shared the recording with Marketplace.

"Every store does the same f---ing thing. You think other stores don't do it?" the supervisor says on tape.

"Everyone f---s with the dates, Mo. Because at the end of the year, the managers, their bonus, you understand?"

Loblaws responds

In an email, Johanne Héroux, a senior director at Loblaws, told Marketplace:

"As a company, we are fully committed to upholding the highest standards in terms of product quality and safety. We have strict protocols in place to ensure their application across all our stores and departments.

"As for the store-specific allegations brought to our attention and in accordance with our zero tolerance policy regarding actions that jeopardize the safety and quality of our products, an investigation was undertaken immediately. Necessary actions will be taken upon completion of the ongoing investigation."

Problems industry-wide

But Saffari is only one of a number of former and current supermarket employees who spoke out about how supermarkets change best-before dates.

Marketplace heard from people who have worked in the bakery, meat and produce departments of a number of different grocery stores, both chains and independent. They described a number of tricks that supermarkets employ to make food appear fresh.

Marinating

Some insiders told Marketplace that old meat was marinated in sauce to mask the smell. (CBC)

These tactics include grinding old meat with fresher meat, marinating old meat in sauces that mask the smell, cutting mould off fruit and vegetables for party trays, and cutting cakes in half to facilitate a faster sale after the best-before has passed.

One insider also says his store took meat that had gone brown from sitting out, and dipped it in blood to make it look redder. Others said they would take mouldy fruit off custard tarts, replace it and glaze it to make it look fresh.

In each of these cases, food was put out with new best-before dates that significantly extended the shelf life.

Food treated this way can harbour microbes that can make you sick, says Keith Warriner, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph.

Best-before dates no guarantee

Best-before dates aren't a guarantee that food is safe to eat. Other factors, such as the way food is stored, can make a big difference.

For dry food, such as cookies, crackers and pasta, best-before dates are a guarantee of freshness and flavour, and don't mean that food past that date is unsafe to eat.

So how do you know that the food you're buying is fresh? Employees recommend buying meat from the back of the shelf, and avoiding pre-marinated or cut foods. They also suggest buying whole cakes, pies and tarts.

Full story:

Grocery store secrets: Best-before dates tampered, workers claim - Health - CBC News
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
dude could have sent a written complaint about the practice to the company's HR department, which would certainly have resulted in the company reprimanding the store manager and stopping the practice (for fear of negative publicity for ignoring the complaint if nothing else), rather than secretly tape a conversation with his supervisor, give it to the media and then claim sick leave for 3-4 months.

shitty supervisor and shitty employee.
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
dude could have sent a written complaint about the practice to the company's HR department, which would certainly have resulted in the company reprimanding the store manager and stopping the practice (for fear of negative publicity for ignoring the complaint if nothing else), rather than secretly tape a conversation with his supervisor, give it to the media and then claim sick leave for 3-4 months.

shitty supervisor and shitty employee.
I have no problem with what he did, people in his position usually end up terminated and then made to look like they have a beef with the employer because of the termination. Although the 3-4 month sick leave is just him being an opportunist.

HR department are generally useless across the board, even moreso in cases of employee vs employer. HR is and will always be the corporate eyes and ears of higher ups.
 
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alexd

Administrator
Staff member
You would think that if store managers are telling their staff to cut off mold and cover that up with fresh fruit or dream whip or whatever, marinating meat extra to remove the rancid smell, and re-labeling products, if the staff member writes a letter to HR about it, the managers are going to make the staff member's life a living hell on the job.

It just seems fundamentally fraudulent and dishonest to put sales and profit above potential health implications of store customers.
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
kyfe and alex - i would expect a good employee to give the company a chance to fix the situation before going to the media. but maybe that's just me, expecting employees to have some loyalty to the employer. if a complaint like that was received by the company's HR department, i would expect a very quick fix of the situation and a system implemented to prevent retaliation against the employee.

maybe your experiences with HR departments have been bad. in all the companies and law firms that i've worked at, the HR department would take a complaint like that very seriously and would ensure the problem was fixed, without risk of retaliation to the employee. a company the size of loblaws would likely have a 'code of conduct' that has strict guidelines preventing retaliation against whistle-blowers.

the fact that this employee chose to skip all those steps and instead contacted the media makes me think of him as a shitty employee. the fact that he claimed 3-4 months of sick leave as well is further evidence of that. that's just my guess based on the article.
 

Bass-Invader

TRIBE Member
If he was under the impression (true or otherwise) that this was happening systemically at all stores then it does not surprise me that he went to the media directly instead of first trying to pass it through the company apparatus (which he had lost all faith in).
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
if he thought it was happening at other stores, he could have included the suspicion in his report to the company and asked to be kept apprised of the solution. it doesn't seem like he did anything other than mention it to his supervisor who disagreed with him.

loblaw has a comprehensive code of conduct which i'm sure is widely publicized to its employees: http://www.loblaw.ca/files/2. About Us/Corporate Governance/LCL_Code_of_Conduct-2015_Eng.pdf

they even have an 'action integrity line' (see page 32) where employees can report concerns, anonymously if they wish.

i don't think a reasonable person could say that he lost faith in the company apparatus if he did not first try these avenues. going to the media to drag your company's name through the mud should be the last resort.
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
Will, I don't disagree with anything you've said. In a perfect world you are right, When i worked in the HR department the direction on issues of this magnitude was provided by senior management and that's how issues were dealt with.

Having said that, I'll give you Ed Snowdon. how did whistle blowing turn out for him? Sure it's a different scale but his employer knew what they were doing was wrong and sold him out when he blew the whistle.

Margins and shareholder value > fixing the problem
 
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Polymorph

TRIBE Member
Nope. Sorry Will, but this guy did the right thing by going media and hyper-public.
Fact is, it's a *trending* newstory on Facebook and elsewhere, and the comments section of the CBC Marketplace article is off the charts.

Instead of keeping it *an issue* behind closed corporate doors, it's exploded into an issue where all these consumers whom can actually read articles are now being more vigilante about where they shop. I know I thought twice about the two grocers I shop at. (both cleared in my head).

It's only through a gestalt of public, consumer pressure that things get done here. If it was just a inside company-issue thing, then there'd be a slap on the wrist, nothing more.

Good for this guy
 

Polymorph

TRIBE Member
However, it also stuck me that the *manager* at this particular Loblaws is scammy by nature. Maybe he had a previous management job as a telemarketing scammer, I dunno.
Also, he's clearly incompetent.
I mean, after awhile, you notice what sells and what doesn't sell (fast). And so, push what sells fast/quick turnover, minimize what don't.
Hey, I've worked for people like this (in the past). I usually last 3 months, when I'm happy to quit/get fired.

...seriously. Stories
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
Another thing to keep in mind is Manager bonuses are tied to things like waste/churn/store performance/revenue etc. so there is motivation regardless of the corporate philosophy. One could also say it is encouraged by the employer as it helps their bottom line although likely indirectly. Regardless there is no trigger to motivate any corporation to do the right thing.

I've never understood why they don't just give food in this state to soup kitchens or maybe write it off and do some direct donation to the homeless like a meals on wheels type service. I'd rather see the company recoup some of their losses this way then through deceit.
 

Polymorph

TRIBE Member
I've never understood why they don't just give food in this state to soup kitchens or maybe write it off and do some direct donation to the homeless like a meals on wheels type service. I'd rather see the company recoup some of their losses this way then through deceit.
Yeah, I agree. There should be some charity tax-deductable if you actually do this. Would seriously reduce a LOT of food-waste.
 
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Polymorph

TRIBE Member
Don't those usually go on the cart by the door in the meat dept looking all sad with the big red "special" sticker on them?
y'know, one of the grocers where I shop here in Mtl does this. Provigo (ok fine they all do, but whatevs). And this past summer, I remembers they had a *panet* of 4 chickens breasts on sale for 8$. Then they put they -30% sticker on it. That's a whole whack of chicken breasts for 5$!
yeah of course I bought it (knowing the chances), came home opened it smelled it.... smells normal tossed it in the freezer.
Later on I whipped me up several fine chicken meals.

Gotta trust yer instincts, guy
 
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Bass-Invader

TRIBE Member
if he thought it was happening at other stores, he could have included the suspicion in his report to the company and asked to be kept apprised of the solution. it doesn't seem like he did anything other than mention it to his supervisor who disagreed with him.

loblaw has a comprehensive code of conduct which i'm sure is widely publicized to its employees: http://www.loblaw.ca/files/2. About Us/Corporate Governance/LCL_Code_of_Conduct-2015_Eng.pdf

they even have an 'action integrity line' (see page 32) where employees can report concerns, anonymously if they wish.

i don't think a reasonable person could say that he lost faith in the company apparatus if he did not first try these avenues. going to the media to drag your company's name through the mud should be the last resort.
The hypothetical 'reasonable person', objectively ascertained probably would have been aware of, and tried all available procedures before going to the media. I do not dispute that this is the procedural correct course of action to take.

The actual dude, ascertained subjectively may well have lost all faith in the company apparatus after being told to do what he was doing, and having a manager tell him it was company-wide practice. I'm sure there were lots of other pressures bearing down on the dude if he ended up taking leave for it, meaning that there could be other atrocious facts that led him to lose faith in Loblaws.

Anyway, my point is that the mere existence of the procedures and his decision to (possibly) avoid them might not make him shitty, and perhaps i'm sentimentally willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because he's done everyone (except Loblaws) a service.
 

awwnaw

TRIBE Member
y'know, one of the grocers where I shop here in Mtl does this. Provigo (ok fine they all do, but whatevs). And this past summer, I remembers they had a *panet* of 4 chickens breasts on sale for 8$. Then they put they -30% sticker on it. That's a whole whack of chicken breasts for 5$!
yeah of course I bought it (knowing the chances), came home opened it smelled it.... smells normal tossed it in the freezer.
Later on I whipped me up several fine chicken meals.

Gotta trust yer instincts, guy
No frills does this a lot too. Privigo is a Loblaws Co. store so presumably they do have the discount/buy today method at some of their banners. I have no problem buying meat that is discounted if I have an immediate use for it. Great deal IMO.

I'm on the west coast now, and I shop at Loblaws banners because I want PC products and what does annoy me is the shit that so clearly has been shipped frozen (and I know that LCL is the only distributor of said product at grocers here) but as a customer you assume fresh. They do it with lots of charcuterie items, ACE bread. The bread clearly tastes a day older than when in Toronto if say you buy on sat morning or weekday evening. Annoying.
 

The Truth

TRIBE Member
I've never understood why they don't just give food in this state to soup kitchens or maybe write it off and do some direct donation to the homeless like a meals on wheels type service. I'd rather see the company recoup some of their losses this way then through deceit.
Its happening in the UK & France and the new Liberal governement should make it happen here

Morrisons to donate all unwanted food to charity - Telegraph

France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities | World news | The Guardian
 

mute79

TRIBE Member
Mo is as much of an asshole as his crummy supervisor... Good job in jeopardizing employment of 190,000 people in Canada, fuckers

The right thing to do is advise the company heads and have them clean up the mess.

FFS
 
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