Having been sold rancid ‘fresh’ chicken at Coles Ocean Shores supermarket this week, I took the trouble to enquire about their handling of meat products. I discovered the following: mark-down labels on products approaching the end of their shelf life often obscure the use-by-date, so the consumer has no idea how fresh the product is.
The meat managers in Coles have no knowledge of the shelf-life of pre-packaged Lilydale and other pre-packaged chicken, but according to other pre-packaged chicken products on sale it is likely at least seven days.
Coles’s own meat product processed in the store is given a shelf life of four days. This indicates that their confidence in the freshness of their own meat is limited to four days, whereas they are happy to sell chicken processed elsewhere for seven days. Coles have a policy of continually marking down prices up to and including the use-by-date, but customers or staff at Coles are unable to physically examine the pre-packaged product in the store.
Coles is not prepared to unpack chicken approaching its use-by-date to make sure they are confident that the meat is fresh and fit for human consumption. The local Coles meat department staff has no personal knowledge of the processes at Lilydale, have never been there to inspect their ‘free-range’ farming, slaughtering and packaging plant.
Clingwrap used to package the meat is in contact with the surface of the meat, allowing plastic-softening chemicals (ESBO and phthalates) to leach into the meat. If the meat is left for seven days or more, unacceptably high levels of plasticisers will migrate into the meat. The oestrogenic activity of phthalates has been known for several years, and these substances are now regulated in the EU. Not so in Australia.
This raises the following questions: How much trouble is Coles prepared to take to guarantee that the products they sell are fresh and do not contain toxic chemicals? Why is Coles so ignorant about the freshness of the pre-packaged meat products they sell? Why does Coles wait until the last minute of the use-by-date before taking products off the shelf ? Why do they obscure the use-by dates? I’ve asked Coles to respond and will be interested to see how far they are prepared to go to address these issues. You can make your own conclusions about supermarkets, but I will buy my meat unpackaged from a local butcher whom I can ask about its freshness and examine it before purchase.
L Cronin, Billinudgel