OMAR ABUYABOR, JARED BUTT, ASHLEIGH DUPREE, MEGAN LACK – WITH CHRIS THOMSON
Six independent supermarkets, including five IGA ones, have been named and shamed on the WA Department of Health’s online convictions register in the past two years, while supermarket giant Woolworths has been convicted once and recently, and Coles and ALDI have maintained a clean record.
But for the indiscretions of Woolworths Kingsway, fined $95,000 on December 9 for a raft of hygiene offences, Woolworths would have joined Coles and ALDI in taking an impeccable hygiene record into 2017.
Woolworths Kingsway, in the northern Perth suburb of Madeley, was convicted of failing to take all practicable measures to prevent pests entering the premises, maintain the shop in a good state of repair, and take all practicable measures to process only safe and suitable food, among other offences. The case was brought to court by the City of Wanneroo, after the offences occurred on October 2 and October 26 last year.
Woolworths’ one conviction compares to five IGA supermarkets that have been fined since November 2014 for contravening the state Food Act.
A Woolworths Australia spokesperson said the company took the conviction “very seriously” and acknowledged the decision.
“We addressed and improved conditions in the store in line with the health authority’s recommendations more than a year ago including further on-site training for our team,” the spokesperson said.
“The health authority and our own food safety audits have since given the store the all clear.”
According to the convictions register, in September, Northland Grocers Pty Ltd, the owner of IGA Willetton on Apsley Road, was fined $15,000 after being convicted of selling food past its use-by date.
The manager of Willeton IGA declined to comment. However, the City of Canning, which achieved the successful prosecution, did comment.
The city’s Director of Planning and Regulation, Graeme Bride, said that selling food past its use-by date was a serious matter, given the potential for foodborne illness.
“The business is responsible for remedying the issues identified by the city’s environmental health officers,” Mr Bride said, adding that further inspections would be made.
LEDA SUPA IGA
In April, Lien Tri Pty Ltd, owner of Leda Supa IGA, on Feilman Drive, was convicted of selling food past its use-by date, and having unclean premises.
The company was fined $11,000.
The City of Kwinana achieved that successful prosecution. And Leda Supa IGA has now closed down.
CANNINGTON SUPA IGA
In July 2015, Rocky D’Costa, owner of Supa IGA Cannington, located at Cecil Avenue, was convicted, among other offences, of selling food past its use-by date, having unclean premises and equipment, not storing food in a way that it was protected from the likelihood of contamination, and failing to take all practicable measures to prevent pests entering the supermarket.
Mr D’Costa was fined $9500.
Supa IGA Cannington has now closed down.
In June 2015, Qin lan Holdings Pty Ltd, which owns Medina IGA located on Pace Road, was convicted of selling food past its use-by date, and selling unsuitable food, and fined $21,000.
The case was another successful prosecution by the City of Kwinana.
Management of Medina IGA declined to comment.
DARCH SUPA IGA
In November 2014, Darch Supa IGA, located on Kingsway less than a kilometre from the Woolworths Kingsway mentioned above, was convicted of selling food past its use-by date and fined $1000.
Darch Supa IGA manager Glenn Butler asserted that independently run supermarkets such as IGA ones were scrutinised more than Coles and Woolworths.
“We are independently owned so [the Department of Health] do[es] tend to check up on us more because we don’t have a bigger company backing us and controlling everything we do in the store,” Mr Butler said.
“It’s not the same treatment as the major players like Coles or Woolworths because we are independently owned.”
Mr Butler said his store now had measures in place to make sure expired foods did not make it into the hands of consumers.
“Our night-fill staff are fully trained to make sure they are carefully checking the expiry dates on every product when they are filling the shelves,” he said.
“We do this process every Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights and it’s something that has always been a part of our protocol.”
Cait Tynan, of Metcash Ltd, which owns the IGA brand, asserted Coles and Woolworths were rarely convicted because they had the resources to fight any allegations in court.
“Independent retailers and independent owners don’t have the money to go and defend these cases as they come through,” Ms Tynan said.
“If anything did come Coles’ or Woolworths’ way, they can fix it, resolve it and move on.”
Asked what their companies thought about this proposition, a Woolworths Australia spokesperson said the firm did not comment on “third party speculation or competitors’ remarks”, and a Coles spokesperson said “food safety was a top priority” for the company.
“Coles takes food safety very seriously and works with government authorities to ensure we adhere to all State and Federal health and safety regulations,” the Coles spokesperson added.
Ms Tynan said that years ago Metcash did not have the ability to work closely with its retailers to ensure a consistent approach to cleanliness, but that it now did.
She said that some IGA retailers were very “old school” and Metcash was working with them to bring them up to standard.
“There’s always going to be the bottom of the brand and the top of the brand and part of what we’re doing as a business is cleaning up the bottom end of the brand,” she said.
“I can’t say categorically that we’ve cleaned up all of it, because there’s obviously one or two you might find across our network in Australia, but that’s where we’re going with it.”
FARMER JACK’S, SUBIACO
Adding to the list of independently owned supermarkets fined for food breaches in the past two years is Farmer Jack’s Subiaco.
That supermarket’s owner, Dalewing Pty Ltd, was convicted on February 12 this year of selling food past its use-by date, and a string of other offences including having unclean fixtures, fittings and equipment.
Dalewing Pty Ltd was fined $12,000.
The manager of Farmer Jack’s Subiaco declined to comment.
A Department of Health spokesperson said major supermarkets received the same treatment as independently owned food businesses.
“The inspection frequency applied by local government enforcement agencies to a food business is based on the risk posed by the food produced/sold and the food handling activities undertaken within the food business,” the spokesperson said.
“On average, local governments’ inspection frequency of supermarkets and food retailers is 1.5 times [per] annum.
“Any increase in inspection frequency by a local government enforcement agency of a specific food business may be a result of the compliance history of the business, and the need for follow-up inspections on non-compliances with the Act.”
For breaching the Food Act, businesses can be fined up to $250,000, and individuals may be fined up to $50,000.
There are 254 IGA supermarkets in Western Australia.
Between them, Woolworths and Coles have 243 supermarkets across the state.
German supermarket giant ALDI, which has 15 stores in Western Australia, has only been operating in the state since June.