Coles Food


Story Details

Scott and Danielle love organic food almost as much they love each other.
The couple recently settled in Sydney and began buying organic meat from their local Coles supermarket.

It's more expensive, partly because Coles guarantee it's safe and hygienic.
Yet, what you're about to read represents a serious failure of the systems they have in place to supply clean food.

Danielle Neill and her husband, Scott McLean-Lopes still can't quite believe what they found in the fresh meat they bought at Coles on Monday.

They bought from the Forestville Coles, 4 packets of organic lamb rump stead with what appeared to have excrement in the packaging. The expiry dates are 28th September.

Today Tonight, along with Scott, called Jim Cooper from Coles.

"Right, that's something we'd obviously like to get to the bottom of very quickly. If I could ask you to either return it to the store or package it up and address it to myself at the head office and we have a process where we'll investigate that, look into it, try and find out what's happened and let you know" said Jim.

Before the meat was returned, Today Tonight took it to be sampled and tested.

"Well it seems to contain digested plant material and there's just the fibrous material left. So you can see pieces of stem, you can see some pollen grains and so � it's a plant-eating animal of a small size one would think, based on the size of the faeces, but obviously bigger than a rat, based on the size of the pellet" says Dr Stephen Morris.

Just twice before, food scientist Dr Stephen Morris says he's been asked to examine food containing faeces.

Scott and Danielle saw Today Tonight's story on Monday night detailing failed food hygiene audits at the big supermarkets, obtained under freedom of information.

"The reason we contacted you is we're tired of this! I want a quality product, I'm a consumer, I deserve to have a quality product and if I'm giving them my hard-earned money then it's up to them to supply me with a quality product, this is not quality" says Scott.

Coles Rats continued�

And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

A shopper took a photo at Coles Westfield at Bondi Junction. Coles confirmed to us it's real, saying it occurred in March of this year.

The shopper snapped a dead rat caught in the top of the fresh meat unit. He alerted staff who had some trouble using bits of cardboard to dislodge the dead rodent.

Meanwhile, Scott and Danielle kept their promise, returning the meat with the faeces to the Coles supermarket at Forestville north of Sydney.

We're waiting on more detailed results of laboratory tests, that could identify bacteria and toxins, including salmonella and the deadly e coli virus.

"It doesn't take that much extra work to stay up to all the standards, but we're being let down here" adds Scott.

Certainly Coles has the resources to guarantee cleanliness, posting a $470 billion profit last financial year, up 7%. Woolworths earned a whopping $1.6 billion, up 26%. With both reporting an increase in sales of their own private brands.

"They've got a monopoly on our groceries, but they're not supplying us with the standard that we demand!" says Scott.

"Not with good hygiene in the food processing plants, it shouldn't be happening at all" says Dr Morris.

We've agreed to handover our lab test results to Coles when we get them. Coles has promised to let us know how this happened and which, if any, of it's other stores are affected.

Coles Statement:

"We were very sorry to hear about the concerns Mr Scott McLean-Lopes had with the lamb products he purchased, and we have sent the product to be scientifically tested as an urgent priority. We apologise to Mr McLean-Lopes for his experience and we'll be working hard to understand what has happened.

"Coles has stringent food safety measures in place for all its stores and suppliers. Our meat suppliers must comply with strict internationally recognised quality and safety standards, and are regularly audited to ensure these standards are continually met.

"The organic lamb product in question is pre-packed by an organic meat supplier with high food safety standards and appropriate accreditiation before being delivered to stores. We are urgently investigating with this supplier how any contamination may have occured prior to the product being packed and delivered to our store. We are conducting a food safety audit of the meat processing premises and we have also sent other meat products from this facility off for testing as a precaution.

"We serve 11 million customers in our stores every week, and issues such as the one brought to your attention are few and far between, and are investigated promptly and thoroughly.

"We are not aware of any similar customer complaints regarding this product line and at this stage we believe it is an isolated incident. However, should we find any evidence pointing to contamination occuring at the supplier level, we will take whatever steps are necessary to remedy the issue.

"With regard to the photo taken at our Coles Westfield Bondi store, the incident dated from late March this year. The incident was obviously unacceptable, and not in keeping with the standards expected of our stores. Since then, we've made personnel changes at the store, and put in place a number of initiatives to improve the store's performance and resolve these past issues. Coles' Bondi customers can be assured that the store is now operating to the required high standards.

"As previously advised, Coles' new management team is working hard to improve a business that has suffered from a lack of investment under previous ownership and is committed to making food safety and hygiene a key focus."