Unethical Practices in Food/Drinks Sector Rife – Council

February 21, 2023

Unhygienic conditions, expired goods, unmerchantable products – these are becoming a common sight among food and drink retailers. This has been revealed after an analysis of consumer complaints coupled with regular surveillance and spot checks; consumers are pouring hundreds of dollars for products which should have never made it to store shelves.

Alarmingly, out of the 1181 complaints registered in the last 3 months (November 2022 to January 2023), 12% of the complaints were pertaining to food and drinks. Equally staggering are the findings of spot checks and surveillances by the Council which revealed that an astonishing 64% of food and drink retailers surveyed were non-compliant to consumer protection laws; mainly the Food Safety Act.

CCoF Chief Executive Officer Ms Seema Shandil says that practices discovered are not only unethical and a breach of consumer protection laws but shows malicious intent of some businesses to profiteer.

“Many traders continue to defy food safety regulations and were found retailing expired food items, tampering with expiry dates, selling prohibited food items, selling priced control items above regulated price and food establishments preparing food in unhygienic conditions. Addressing complaints relating to food and drinks is on top of the Council’s priority list, given that these products end up on consumers dining table,” said Ms Shandil.

It has also been noted that most businesses in breach of consumer protection laws were repeat offenders. The Council has referred repeat offenders to the Municipal Councils and the Ministry of Health as they are the custodians of the Food Safety Act; pushing for urgent and stringent actions.

“The high number of repeat offenders despite the Council extending an olive branch to these businesses to work together and resolve issues is a clear indicator that stringent enforcement actions need to be dished out as a deterrence against any future unethical and profiteering behavior,” added Ms Shandil.

Consumers are also being urged to refrain from engaging with businesses which are clearly disregarding their rights and retailing shoddy and unmerchantable products. Through their demand power, consumers must send a signal to businesses that nothing short of best quality and impeccable services will be accepted. Furthermore, consumers are being encouraged not to be passive and flag issues discovered to the Council via the toll-free number 155 or by lodging complaints using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.