Saint Lucia’s Department of Consumer Affairs and Massy Stores have issued statements in response to a video posted on social media, asserting that expired flour is being offered for sale here.
The flour has since been withdrawn from the market, according to the department and a statement from Massy Stores.
The viral video, lasting two minutes and nine seconds shows a package of the commodity listing a ‘Best By’ date of January 5, 2020.
But when the paper bearing that date is peeled away, a January 2019 date is revealed beneath it.
‘Watch what you all eating! Watch what you all eating!” A male voice is heard to exclaim on the video recording as the January 5, 2019 date is shown.
Animated exclamations in Kweyol follow, asserting that the true expiry date had been covered over with with another date extending the shelf life of the commodity.
“That have how much worms,” one of the voices declares, while another man asserts that the flour is not good.
Director of Consumer Affairs, Guillaume Simon, told St Lucia Times that the Department had been made aware by Massy Stores of a misprint on the part of the manufacturer on the 2 kg packages of flour.
“We have been in dialogue with Massy and Massy did in fact submit to us a letter of certification from the supplier indicating that it was just an error on the part of the printing and that there was nothing unwholesome about the flour,” Simon stated.
He said he was aware that the video had caused some anxiety.
However he said Massy has taken a decision to withdraw the product from the market and quarantine it.
“I would urge any consumer who has issues as it relates to the use of the flour and who have purchased that flour can actually return the flour to Massy for a refund,” Simon said.
He explained that the flour in question was not imported by the government supply department but by Massy.
According to the Consumer Affairs Department official, no one had come forward to lodge a complaint regarding the unwholesomeness of the flour.
“But we have seen the videos and of course we are working collaboratively with the relevant government agencies to protect consumers,” Simon told St Lucia Times.
He explained that he was satisfied that action was taken to alleviate consume fears.
Simon encouraged consumers to report suspicions of unsafe products and lodge a complaint with the department.
Meanwhile, Massy Stores released the following statement:
Massy Stores (SLU) Ltd. wishes to apologize to customers for an issue regarding the packaging of its People’s Choice Flour, which today resulted in a high level of customer dissatisfaction and media speculation about the quality of the product.
The company explains that it received a shipment of product from its supplier Barbados Mills mid-July. Following inspection, it was noted that some bales of the product carried a January 2019 best before date.
Upon contacting the supplier to inform of this development, Massy Stores (SLU) Ltd. was informed that some of the bales within the shipment had been erroneously stamped with the incorrect best before dates.
Following documentation from the manufacturing plant to substantiate this information, the supplier requested that the error be corrected locally, by affixing the new best before label (January 2020) to the product.
This was done and communicated to the Ministry of Commerce, which issues licenses to retailers for the importation of flour into the country.
While emphasizing that this was a labelling error at the packaging plant, Massy Stores Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications Sariah Best-Joseph says, “We apologize to our valued customers and the general public and sincerely apologize for this situation. The action taken was purely to correct the error. In discussion with our supplier Barbados Mills earlier today, we agreed and accepted that there may have been other corrective actions which should have been explored in this situation.”
Massy Stores (SLU) Ltd. wishes to reassure customers that the company values the integrity of the products offered to our customers.
We honour the best before and expiry dates on products and voluntarily remove products, which do not meet standards of health, safety and quality. We work very closely with the regulatory agencies, including the Department of Consumer Affairs, the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards and the Ministry of Health on food quality and safety matters as well as product recalls.
To prevent any further customer discomfort Massy Stores has removed all relabeled People’s Choice flour from its shelves and at Ti J’s supermarkets where the product is also sold. The company is also working assiduously to ensure that another batch of inventory is available for customers in the soonest possible time.