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Tesco fined after foam found in baguette

PUBLISHED: 17:48 12 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 22 October 2010

The Tesco baguette with a chunk of insulation foam inside.

The Tesco baguette with a chunk of insulation foam inside.

LORNA MARSH

Supermarket giant Tesco was ordered to pay more than £31,000 after a baguette bought at a Norwich branch was found to contain insulation foam.

A supermarket giant has been ordered to pay more than £31,000 after a baguette bought at a Norfolk store was found to contain insulation foam.

Sam Avery was breaking pieces off a roll he had bought from the Tesco Metro store in Norwich when he realised there was something lodged inside. He reported the matter to the city council which launched an investigation.

The resulting £15,000 fine that Tesco was ordered to pay along with costs and compensation is the largest of its kind in the council's history.

Tesco pleaded guilty today at Norwich Magistrates Court to selling food which was not of the substance or quality demanded by the purchaser.

The court heard Mr Avery bought the 400 gram white baguette from the store in Guildhall Hill in August 2004 and took it back to eat at the pub where he was working.

Clair Dobbin, prosecuting on behalf of the council, said: “He was breaking pieces of the baguette off and was about to place another piece in his mouth when he saw something at the end of the piece of bread he had just broken off. He saw it contained some sort of expanding foam and he reported the matter to the council.”

Miss Dobbin said that experts who examined the baguette thought it was some sort of foam insulation.

The court heard the foam was clearly visible under the surface of the bread and had probably been baked into the bread during production.

Tesco was notified on September 1, 2004 that there would be a formal investigation.

Miss Dobbin said: “At this point Tesco declined despite a number of requests to come to an interview.

She added that the supermarket eventually gave names of two possible suppliers of the baguette, but investigators later decided the offending roll hadn't come from either.

The court heard that Tesco repeatedly declined to to be interviewed about the matter and a summons was served on August 18, 2005.

Mark Harris, representing Tesco, said: “The company apologises for having committed this offence. The sale by this company of products not of the quality demanded is something it tries diligently to avoid and is profusely sorry when it does occur.

“The company has written to Mr Avery expressing our apologies to him and enclosing vouchers in the sum of £100.”

He added: “There is no suggestion that the material that was in the bread was likely to be consumed. It was clearly visible. Even if there was some residual risk that the foam might have been bitten it was not poisonous.”

District judge Philip Browning fined Tesco £15,000 and ordered the company to pay prosecution costs of £15,944.33. He also ordered that Mr Avery be awarded £250 compensation.

He said he would not give Tesco credit for a late guilty plea and added: “The so called profound apologies to the purchaser ring somewhat hollow coming as they did some two years after the offence.”

He described the case as being one of “delay and prevarication”.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said after the hearing, which coincides with the start of national food safety week, that the case illustrates the need for companies to be thorough when preparing food for sale.

The council's investigating officer Jaan Stanton said: “The fine of £15,000 is the largest in the city for a single foreign body found in food and reminds companies they must take their responsibilities to the consumer seriously.”


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