Tesco falls foul of Slovak government

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Slovakia Tesco

The Slovak government has launched criminal proceedings against
Tesco over allegations the retailer sold out-of-date meat products
in Central and Eastern European (CEE) stores.

As reported on FoodandDrinkEurope.com in November, several international retailers were caught selling mouldy foodstuffs in stores throughout CEE, using bleaching tricks and warehouse make-overs to conceal the deterioration.

Now, six months later, Slovak Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon has filed criminal complaints against the local subsidiary of Britain's leading retail chain for allegedly selling bad meat products.

In a country-wide inquiry, Slovak Veterinary and Food Administration inspectors found mouldy meat for sale a central Tesco store and fined the firm €25,000.

At another Tesco supermarket in Bratislava the inspectors reportedly identified more than 90 kilos of poultry in refrigeration that were over expiration date.

FoodandDrinkEurope.com contacted Tesco, but a spokesperson could not comment on the situation.

Until now, penalties imposed in the CEE for such practices have been nothing more than a drop in the ocean to multinational organisations, fuelling the practice of re-labelling out-of-date food.

Slovakia can currently only impose a maximum €25,000 fine, and retailers in the Czech Republic face a maximum penalty of €100,000.

However due to the level of hostility in these countries towards large foreign companies moving in, the Slovak government has finally decided to act.

The problem of re-labelling and repackaging products was found to be endemic to the region, with discoveries made in Poland and the Czech Republic too.

In September the Czech Republic's State and Agricultural and Food Inspection Office (CAFIA) identified four kinds of packaged meats at an Ahold-owned Hypernova store that had been re-labelled to extend the original durability date by two to four months.

Boris Planer from Planet Retail told FoodandDrinkEurope.com that there is a lot of pressure on individual store managers to meet regional targets, encouraging staff to cut corners where possible.

"CEE food retail markets are so competitive, most are generating losses. It takes six or seven years for many retailers to make any profits,"​he explained.

Inspectors from Slovakia's State Veterinary and Food Inspection team found shortcomings in 45 of the 313 retail outlets they inspected last autumn.

The most serious violation of the law was the repackaging of meat and its further sale for human consumption, for example as grilled products.

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