New Zealand-based manufacturer Hellers is facing penalties after three children suffered reactions from consuming incorrectly packaged Sizzlers sausages.
The company has been fined almost $40,000 and is ordered to pay $15,000 to the children.
This is the first time that tougher penalties have been imposed since the Food Act 2014 was introduced, the Ministry of Primary Industries said in a statement.
MPI says the children became sick after an incident in September 2017, when staff at Hellers’ Wiri factory didn’t follow procedures, resulting in Cheese Sizzlers being packaged as Original Sizzlers.
MPI’s manager of food compliance Melinda Sando says the incident could easily have been prevented if staff had cross checked labels and the product itself before packaging.
“Cheese Sizzlers were sent to market packaged as Original Sizzlers, which did not have cheese included in the ingredient list. They were distributed to various outlets, including supermarkets.
“Three children who were allergic to milk complained of allergic reactions after consuming the mispackaged sausages. One had a moderate reaction, one a moderate to severe reaction and one a severe anaphylactic reaction that required hospital treatment.
“Following these reports from the public, Hellers initiated a recall of the affected product.
“The company had a duty to ensure its products were safe and suitable. Proper labelling of allergens is a key requirement in discharging this duty and consumers should be able to rely on food labelling when making their purchasing decisions. This is especially so for those with food allergies.”
Prior to sentencing, Hellers pleaded guilty to one Food Act 2014 charge of failing to ensure food is safe and suitable.
Since the incident, the company has put in place additional staff training and procedures to prevent the problem recurring.
Allergy New Zealand’s chief executive Mark Dixon says the prosecution is a timely reminder of the importance for food safety and urgent need for it to be taken seriously.
“They need the food industry to comply with regulations on food allergen management and labelling so they are able to access safe and suitable food wherever they are.” says Mr Dixon.
Mr Dixon says there has been a significant increase in the last 12 months in food recalls for undeclared allergens and that this is a real concern for consumers.
“This incident is also a reminder to companies to use a range of communication channels to reach their customers during a food recall.”