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DUNNE AND BUSTED; EXCLUSIVE IRISH SUNDAY MIRROR INVESTIGATION We catch Ireland's biggest supermarket selling food that is two weeks out of date Food safety experts slam dangerous lapse.

Byline: By STEPHEN MAGUIRE AND NIALL DONALD

IRELAND'S biggest supermarket chain is selling food that is out of date by up to two weeks, a shock Irish Sunday Mirror investigation has revealed.

A number of branches of Dunnes Stores across the country are stocking products on the shelves that are clearly past their use-by date.

Among them is a range of children's yogurt, which - according to its packaging - should have been removed from sale 14 days previously.

Other food that has exceeded its shelf life, according to food safety standards, includes sausages, carrots, strawberries, nutritional drinks and various frozen foods.

Food safety experts and consumer bosses slammed the dangerous lapse in food safety standards.

Last night the highly respected Food Safety Authority said it would launch an immediate investigation into Dunnes Stores following our investigation. Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alan Reilly said it was simply "unacceptable" that out-of-date products were on sale.

"It is just totally unacceptable to have products on display for sale which are past their use-by date.

"It is poor product rotation practice and it offers very real dangers for the consumer.

"We will be launching an immediate investigation into why such products are being allowed to be sold in Dunnes Stores outlets.

"This is a very worthwhile investigation as people often simply do not check these use-by dates on food products.

"People often take it for granted that food is OK for consumption because it is on display in shops. If people feel they are not getting a quality product then they should vote with their feet and not use a store.

"That's what we at the Food Safety Authority advocate," he said.

One angry shopper said he was shocked by the findings of our investigation. The man, who is a stay-at-home-dad, said he did all his shopping in the popular chain store.

"I have always found Dunnes Stores to be the best-value supermarket around.

"And lately the quality of their produce has been even more varied than before.

"But this investigation has shocked me.

"How can they be allowed to sell out-of-date food?

"I never bother to check the use-by dates on the packaging.

"After all, I presume that, if the food is on the shelves, then it is safe to buy and then safe to eat.

"I thought it was up to the shop to comply with all safety standards and make sure the customer is looked after.

"But this has really opened my eyes. I'll certainly be checking all the labels from now on to check if they're out of date," he fumed.

Our investigation was carried out over two days earlier this week.

We paid for the goods with cash and have a dated receipt for our purchases.

The cashier in each case simply scanned the food. No safeguards were in place to warn that the foods were past their use-by date.

In the Letterkenny branch of Dunnes Stores in Co Donegal, we found a number of out-of-date products including Muller Little Stars jelly pots (15 days past use-by date), Denny sausages (three days past use-by date) as well as strawberries and carrots (two days past use-by date).

Other products including bacon were actually labelled and reduced to sell for half price because their display period expired on the date of our investigation.

However, the potentially dangerous out-of-date produce simply sat on the shelves among fresh produce without warning that it had expired.

In the Dun Laoghaire branch in Co Dublin, we found a range of out-of-date products still sitting on shelves despite being over a week out of date.

These included various Danone Danacol nutritional drinks and Muller fromage frais, which we found in the refrigerated section of the south Dublin store.

Reacting to our investigation, Dermot Jewel of the Consumers Association of Ireland said he was shocked that such simple safety procedures were being flouted.

He said he was now calling on Dunnes Stores to review the chain's food management process.

"This most certainly should not be happening in this day and age.

"Food quality and regulation has come on so much in Ireland but this is simply ridiculous.

"The bottom line is that these products simply should not be on the shelves once they have gone past their use-by date.

"The onus is not on the consumer but on stores such as Dunnes to get it right," he said.

He added that Dunnes Stores must act now to ensure that ALL products displayed on store shelves were fit for consumption according to their labelling.

"This is a wake-up call for this company to ensure that this does not happen again and they should welcome your investigation as doing them a service.

"The possible consequence of a child or an elderly person eating an out-of-date product could be huge for the store.

"And it's not like it is a complicated issue.

"The produce which is past its use-by date should simply be removed and destroyed," he said.

In spite of repeated calls to Dunnes, the company found no-one to comment on the out of date food scandal.

CAPTION(S):

Dunnes Stores in Dun Laoghaire, where potentially dangerous out-of-date food was on sale' Dunnes Stores in Letterkenny, where food well past its use-by date was left on shelves for unwary shoppers' FSAI Deputy Chief Executive Alan Reilly
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2007
Words:886
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