‘Best before date of food items is date of expiry’

Chocolate muffins and a dry fruit bun, costing Rs 25, gave Navtej Singh, a Mohali resident, a tough time as his wife landed in hospital with food poisoning after consuming them.

Four months later, he was compensated with Rs 5,000 by the consumer forum and the retail outlet was held guilty for adopting unfair trade practices as it had sold the expired food items.

The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum directed 'More' in Sector 27 to pay Rs 5,000 as compensation and refund Rs 25 charged from the complainant.

President of the forum, Jagroop Singh Mahal, held, "The retail outlet cannot evade the requirement of law by mentioning "best before" in place of the "date of expiry". We are, therefore, of the opinion that the

date February 1, 2009 being mentioned against "best before" is the date of expiry. The retailer sold the food item on February 2, 2009 after the expiry date and is guilty of unfair tradepractice".

Navtej Singh had moved the consumer forum accusing the retailer of selling "expired products" though owners of 'More' denied the allegations.

In his complaint, Navtej said he had purchased a packet of Prime Time dry fruit bun and Prime Time chocolate muffins on February 2, 2009 from the Sector 27-based outlet.

"On the same day at about 9 pm, my wife Reet consumed the chocolate muffin and soon started vomiting and had an upset stomach. Next morning, we took her to the general hospital in Sector 16 where she was diagnosed to have food poisoning," the complaint reads.

He added, "On reaching home, I found that the second product was also past its expiry date. I went to the store and showed them the product and sought an explanation but they refused to budge. They even denied to hand over the complaint book."

In its reply, the retail outlet admitted that the products had been purchased from their outlet but pleaded that they had not expired and were fit for consumption.

The forum observed: "The contention of the complainant to have suffered food poisoning due to the consumption of the said chocolate muffins has not been proved. There is no medical evidence produced by them to prove that food poisoning occurred due to the consumption of the products alone. We are, therefore, not inclined to accept this part of the contention."

The forum, however, held: "The allegations regarding the sale of expired food products stands proved as the wrapper of the dry fruit buns states that it was "best before February 1, 2009 and the food item was sold on February 2, 2009."

The forum dismissed the contention of the retailers that the "best before" does not mean the "date of expiry" and, therefore, it cannot be said that the food product had expired on the date on which it was sold. The forum held: "If this contention is accepted, then we can safely conclude that the dry fruit bun does not have any date of expiry mentioned thereon which again is contrary to the requirement of law in this respect."

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