How easy it to report non-compliant food allergen labelling?

In early October, I found these Shirley Biscuits by the Wibisco brand at my local Morrisons. As you see, they are non-compliant with labelling legislation, given that the allergens — I spotted milk, wheat, soy, sulphites — are not emphasised. Normally in this situation, there would be over-stickering, as the products are imported. 

On the 18th October, I tweeted Morrisons to report the problem. 

No response.

On the 31st October, I tweeted them again

No response. 

On November 2nd, I tweeted what I was reliably told was Morrisons local trading standards office in West Yorkshire.

Guess what? No response

I’ve never understood the point of social media accounts if you’re selective about what you address and what you ignore, but anyway, the direct route wasn’t working.

So I took the one regularly advised by the Food Standards Agency, which is to use their Report a Food Problem page, shown below. 

From there, I chose the Product Labelling option, which takes you to the Report a Product Labelling Issue page. 

Curiously, there is only one option there, ‘Misleading or Missing Information’, which takes you to the Report Misleading Labelling Page, below, with an instruction to contact Trading Standards, to which a link is offered. 

Click on the link, and you’re in fact taken to a Government webpage, Find your local Trading Standards office

Click on the Start Now link, and you’re taken to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s website, to a Support and Advice page, where you’re invited to ‘Find the nearest trading standards office to your postcode’.

My postcode isn’t relevant, given (I presume) the non-compliant biscuits are a nationwide issue, so it’s Morrisons HQ postcode which is key — BD3 7DL. I entered it, and as expected up came the details of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service (who had ignored my tweet earlier).

So I emailed them. Next day, 5th November, West Yorkshire Joint Services wrote back: “Consumer advice is provided for Trading Standards by Citizens Advice Consumer Service (CACS) which is a specialist consumer advice service managed by the CAB in partnership with local authority Trading Standards throughout the country … CACS records all complaints and passes information onto relevant agencies, including Trading Standards.”

I was told to email CACS here and obligingly did so. 

On the 7th November, CACS responded, to tell me they’d refer the matter to …. Trading Standards. 

Would I be told the eventual resolution, I asked?

On the 12th November, this reply: “Unfortunately, we do not receive updates from TS concerning investigations or action they may be taking, therefore we would be unable to update you”.

So to summarise, I have tweeted and been ignored by the supermarket and the relevant local authorities, gone through several pages of the Food Standards Agency website, to be taken to a Government webpage, from there to be directed towards the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s website, and from there required to search for and then email the relevant Trading Standards Office, and by them told to contact Citizens Advice, who then redirected back my complaint to Trading Standards, who may or may not inform me what happens to my complaint — which if it needs spelling out constitutes a danger to the lives of people with food allergy. 

Meanwhile, the products are still for sale, four weeks on. Today, 13th November, I just bought a packet. 

Postscripts:

18th November: In response to this, Morrisons have tweeted me an apology and a confirmation that the the biscuits have been withdrawn from sale. 

25th November: I received a private message from Morrisons to inform me that my local branch had been informed of the problem to ensure the removal ‘ASAP’.

6th December: Two weeks on from that assurance, the products are still on the shelf.

 

2 Comments

  1. Edward Simmonds

    Not very good from Morrisons who are the fourth largest supermarket chain. You might expect this from a small independent shop but not from Morrisons who should know better.

    There is an independent ethnic shop near me which sells food imported from all over the world including from many countries which don’t have allergen regulations or where allergen regulations are ignored and never really enforced. Unfortunately this shop is a nightmare for any person with any allergen. I have spotted well over fifty products over the past couple years in that shop which don’t comply with our legal allergen labelling standards and for example don’t list allergens in bold or capitals or make any reference to the product containing allergens.

    The shop owner couldn’t care less and like this article of yours show these things are so difficult to report. They really need a better reporting system to ensure these sort of things are dealt with quickly.

    Reply
    1. Alex G (Post author)

      That’s appalling, but not surprising. I love shops like this, and want to support independents, but I don’t have much time for ‘we’re just a small business’ type excuses for not complying with the law. All companies big and small should be held to account for this and up their game. Something is desperately wrong.

      Reply

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