Retail Food Group backflips on use-by date extensions

Retail Food Group backflips on use-by date extensions

Following an exposé by The Sydney Morning Herald the parent company behind Michel's Patisserie has backflipped on its internal decision to extend use-by dates on food products.

As reported by The SMH Retail Food Group (ASX: RFG) instructed Michel's franchisees to ignore expiry dates on packaging and adopt new shelf-life dates, ranging from two and six months.

According to internal memos RFG told franchisees that coloured, edible plaques with a use-by date of January 15, 2019 had been extended to July 15.

"If you receive coloured plaques from this batch number that still denotes the original January expiry date, please disregard this and ensure staff are aware of the new expiry date," according to one memo obtained by The SMH.

Other memos included extending the use-by date for chocolate cakes, and spinach and feta scrolls.

Now, the franchiser, which has recently come under intense fire from a Royal Commission into Australian franchise businesses for its treatment of franchisees, has backflipped on its decision to extend use-by dates following The SMH report.

"RFG follows strict standards with regard to food quality and any product date extension was granted following written approval from the supplier and with consumer safety top of mind. Regardless, RFG has taken voluntary action and is in the process of withdrawing any products which had received approved date extensions from our suppliers," says Retail Food Group.

"In the past 18 months, RFG brands engaged with less than 1 per cent of its supplier network to request possible shelf life extension where appropriate and safe to do so. These extensions related to 0.25 per cent of RFG's annual spend with its supplier network."

"RFG audits its suppliers and distributors regularly and will remove any supplier from its network if they are deemed to have contravened relevant food safety regulations."

"RFG has not been contacted by regulators regarding any concerns with our food safety standards and if it were then it would fully co-operate in the best interests of consumers."

The NSW Food Authority has said that it has begun investigating Homebush Cakes, a RFG supplier, over the extension of use-by dates.

RFG, the parent company behind Brumby's, Donut King, and Michel's Patisserie was slammed by a parliamentary inquiry into Australian franchisors in March this year.

The committee devoted a chapter in their Fairness in Franchising report to Retail Food Group as an example of a franchisor who is taking advantage of an insufficient regulatory framework the report recommended serious consequences for RFG.

The inquiry recommended that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Tax Office, conduct investigations into the operations and dealings of Retail Food Group, its former and current directors and senior executives and companies and trusts they own, direct, manage or hold a beneficial interest in.

Shares in Retail Food Group are down 6.67 per cent to $0.21 per share at 11.37am AEST.

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