Hellers has been forced to pay out nearly $55,000 due to it mislabelling its Cheese Sizzlers as Original Sizzlers. The blunder resulted in three children being hospitalised for having moderate to severe allergic reactions.
The company was fined $39,375 after a Ministry of Primary Industries investigation found that the cheese sausages, which were packed at Hellers’ Wiri Factory, didn’t have cheese listed on the ingredients list.
Melinda Sando, MPI manager of food compliance, commented that the incident was preventable if staff cross-checked the product and its labels before packing. "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."
As a result, Hellers has introduced additional staff training and procedures. In addition to the $39,375 fine, the company was also ordered to pay each of the three children hospitalised $5000.
Mark Dixon, Allergy New Zealand's chief executive, said that the incident was a reminder for food producers that food allergen management was serious business. This comes after he has reported seeing a significant increase in food recalls due to undeclared allergens.