Hellers cops $40k fine after mislabelled sausages cause allergic reactions

Hellers copped a hefty fine for incorrectly labelling a batch of Cheese Sizzlers.
Hellers copped a hefty fine for incorrectly labelling a batch of Cheese Sizzlers. Photo credit: iStock.

New Zealand meat company Hellers has been fined almost $40,000 after mislabelling a batch of Sizzlers sausages, causing three children to have allergic reactions.

Three children became sick in September 2017 after consuming cheese flavoured Sizzlers sausages that were incorrectly labelled as original flavour.

The Ministry of Primary Industries' Manager of Food Compliance Melinda Sando said the three children had differing levels of reaction, one needing hospital treatment for severe anaphylaxis.

"The company had a duty to ensure its products were safe and suitable," it said.

"Customers should be able to rely on food labelling when making their purchasing decisions."

Hellers was fined $39,375 and ordered to pay an additional $5000 to each of the three children who were affected.

Ms Sando said the incident could have been prevented if staff had cross-checked labels and the products themselves.

Since the incident the company has put in place additional training and procedures to stop the problem reoccurring.

Allergy New Zealand CEO Mark Dixon said the fine is a good reminder for businesses to take their food management seriously.

"Food allergy is not a lifestyle choice, it is a challenging condition which needs to be managed all day every day for many thousands of people."

He said there has been an increase in food recalls for undeclared allergens in the last 12 months and this is a real concern for some consumers.

"This incident is also a reminder to companies to use a range of communication channels to reach their customers during a food recall."

Allergy New Zealand encourages consumers with severe food allergies to register with MPI's food recall alerts service.           

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