A butchery manager at an Auckland supermarket was fired for unwrapping packed chicken which had reached its best-before date and re-packaging it.
Michael Dick then attached a reduced price sticker and returned it to the shelves with a best-before date of the next day, according to an Employment Relations Authority finding released today.
Mr Dick did not deny making the changes and also admitted opening packets of beef which had reached their best-before date, mincing the meat and putting it back on the shelves with a new date.
He was fired from his job at the Countdown store in Westgate in September 2009 but went to the authority claiming he was unjustifiably dismissed.
Mr Dick claimed the store had a practice of rewrapping and relabelling meat to reduce waste and said Countdown wanted workers to keep the value of wasted meat below a set amount. An ability to meet that target helped earn a bonus, he said.
Authority member Rosemary Monaghan found Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown, had acted fairly and reasonably when deciding on and implementing the dismissal said and his sacking was justified.
Countdown spokesman Luke Schepen today said any claim that what Mr Dick did was standard practise at Countdown was false.
"The safety of our team members and our customers is an absolute priority. On the rare occasion we find anyone compromising this commitment we take swift and immediate action, and have done so in this case.''
Countdown was pleased the authority had taken the same view, he said.
Mr Dick refused to comment on the finding.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, on its website, said a 'best before' date on food was used to give the consumer an idea of when the food should be eaten by.
After the 'best before' date it is likely the quality of the product could begin to change.
Food marked with a 'use by' date should not be used if the date has passed.
It is illegal to sell food with an expired 'use by' date.
- APNZBy Hana Garrett-Walker Email Hana