Retail Food Group has acknowledged extending use-by dates on food products but says it is withdrawing them from sale by franchisees.
RFG says its brands, which include Michel’s Patisserie, asked less than one per cent of its 1,000 suppliers to request shelf life extension “where appropriate and safe to do so”.
“RFG follows strict standards with regard to food quality and any product date extension was granted following written approval from the supplier and with consumer safety top of mind,” Retail Food Group said on Monday.
The company, which has been beset by controversy over the past two years, said it was voluntarily withdrawing the products.
Its statement to the ASX followed weekend newspaper reports that bakery chain Michel’s Patisserie deliberately sold batches of chocolate cakes, birthday cakes and edible decorations between two and six months after their use-by date.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that RFG told franchisees to ignore expiry dates on packaging.
“RFG has not been contacted by regulators regarding any concerns with our food safety standards and if it were then it would fully co-operate in the best interests of consumers,” RFG said.
RFG’s share price collapsed over the past two years after it was accused of badly mistreating franchisees, and a parliamentary inquiry this year said management had been either “unethical” or “incompetent”.
The inquiry into franchising’s final report said Retail Food Group had damaged the reputation of franchising in Australia and should be investigated by the competition regulator, the corporate regulator and the Australian Taxation Office.
At 1035 AEST on Monday, RFG shares had fallen 4.4 per cent to 21.5 cents.
They had been worth more than $7 at the start of 2017 and were still valued at $4.40 in December that year, when RFG was first accused of running franchisees into the ground with exorbitant fees.