4/04/2022·2 mins to read

Supermarket fined over health & safety failures

Key takeaways

  • A recent court decision has illustrated the importance of the food processors being aware of their obligations under the Food Act.
  • A Tauranga supermarket was convicted and fined for selling contaminated mince products from its in-store butchery.
  • The case serves as reminder to the supermarket industry that high standards of health and safety must be upheld at all times.


A Tauranga supermarket (Supermarket) has recently been fined $4,500 after selling mince contaminated with plastic. The incident took place in 2019 when an absorption pad was accidentally minced along with steaks that had not been sold, resulting in fragments of plastic contaminating the batch of mince. Plastic was identified in the mince by a member of the public and was brought back to the Supermarket, leading to a recall of the entire batch. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) charged the Supermarket under the Food Act 2014 (Food Act) for failing to meet their duty to ensure that food sold was safe and suitable.

The Judge found the incident was due to human error and inadequate processes, such as the mincing of unsold meat. In determining how much to fine the Supermarket, the Judge considered the degree of risk of harm, the history of the Supermarket’s previous offending, and the actions taken by the Supermarket to minimise the harm and prevent similar offending. These included the following factors:

  • that the contaminated batch had been recalled immediately;
  • there was minimal risk of harm due the size of the plastic;
  • staff had been retrained after the incident;
  • mincing processes were reconsidered and changed; and
  • the supermarket was a first time offender.

The Judge also noted the importance of food safety and the responsibility supermarkets have in maintaining high hygienic standards.  

Relevant legislation

Section 14 of the Food Act outlines that the primary duty of persons who trade in food is to ensure that it is safe and suitable for consumption. The Food Act defines ‘safe and suitable’ as being:

  • Safe: a condition in which food, in terms of its intended use, is unlikely to cause or lead to illness or injury to human life or public health.

  • Suitable: food which meets compositional, labelling and identification requirements and is in the right condition for its intended use.

What does this mean for you?

The case serves as an important reminder to businesses to ensure their training, and health and safety processes are up to scratch.  All food businesses should remain aware of their obligations under the Food Act, especially in relation to ensuring the health and safety of their customers.

Food Law Webinar

This Wednesday 6 April, our food law team are presenting a food law webinar including country of origin labelling, and a review of recent claims cases. If you would like to join this webinar, please email us here.

Get in touch

We have experts who are highly experienced in food law.  If you need any advice in ensuring your health and safety processes are compliant, or if you have any questions about food in general, please get in touch with our experts (pictured right).

Special thanks to Laura Mikkelsen and Christy Alexander for their assistance in writing this article.



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