Is Spar ‘there for you’? Risky milk calls that into question
There has been controversy over a dairy product sold without meeting the retailer’s safety requirements
A customer has accused Spar of “abusing consumer trust” after it warned its Western Cape shops that one of its dairy products did not meet its own safety standards but was still being sold.
Peter Newton claims Spar put the lives of its customers at risk when it continued to sell Oakland Dairy products. The product does meet government safety standards.
Oakland Dairy has defended its products, arguing the fact that they meet all food standards prescribed by the government means they “are safe to consume and do not, as has been suggested by Spar head office, present a health concern or risk”.
Newton said meeting government’s minimum requirements was cold comfort. “If those requirements are acceptable, why would Spar have to have their own standards? And if they have their own standards, for our own safety, why are they not sticking to them?
“It’s a total abuse of our trust and so horrifically unacceptable from a brand like Spar,” he said.
In a letter circulated to Spar stores in December, its Western Cape’s regional office claimed the Philippi-based dairy was not compliant with the industry’s quality assurance process known as GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) intermediate-level audit. This audit was done on all suppliers of “high-risk” products, including perishables.
In the communiqué signed off by Spar category manager Brendon Williams, the retailer, however, did not bar Spar stores from selling Oakland Dairy products, leaving the decision to sell or not sell to individual stores because the supplier met a Certificate of Acceptability from the government and could lawfully sell its products to the public.
In the letter, Williams said Oakland Dairy had since applied for an audit to be carried out at their facility. It is scheduled for April 11 2019.
“Until such time that Oakland Dairy has passed this audit, Spar Western Cape cannot endorse the sale of Oakland Dairy products. However, stores are free to sell their products at their own risk,” Williams wrote.
In the letter, the regional office also accused Oakland Dairy of using Spar’s name to promote its dairy products without consent from the retailer.
“Our legal firm has served Oakland Dairy with a notice of infringement to cease from using the Spar name and logo in any advertising in the future and have been instructed to remove any past advertisements referring to Spar.”
Asked for comment, Williams referred Times Select to Spar’s head office for comment. Its head office declined to comment.
Oakland Dairy human resources manager Benjamin Lubbe said his company learned of Spar’s minimum food safety standards for the first time towards the end of last year.
He said the dairy had been supplying Spar stores with its milk products, including yoghurt, butter and fresh milk, since February 2017.
“Oakland has not historically complied with Spar’s internal minimum food standards for the simple reason that we were not aware of them. As soon as the existence of internal standards was brought to our attention, we commenced the process of being compliant,” Lubbe said.
“Becoming compliant with the Spar internal requirements does not involve anything other than having our premises and processes inspected or audited by a specialist appointed by Spar.”
Spar managers who sold Oakland products have claimed ignorance of Spar’s regional office concerns.
Colin Doyle, co-owner of Kwik Spar in Strand, one of the stores that sell Oakland products, said his store received no communication from the regional office concerning the suppliers.
“This is the first time I hear that Oakland Dairy doesn’t meet Spar’s food safety standards. We have been selling their products for quite some time now, and so far we haven’t received any complaints from customers about the quality of the product,” he said.
Ingrid Links from Spar in Cinnamon Square, Strand, also said her store had not received any communication from Spar management.
“If we had received the letter or any warning we probably would have discontinued selling the questionable products, but so far we have received nothing,” she said.
Newton said consumers should remain cautious about buying perishable food products.
“My concerns are personal, they are for my children and other children and elderly people primarily who might buy milk from a retailer who they trust, but doesn’t meet its own safety standards,” he said.