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CONTRIBUTION · 14th October 2011
Concerned Citizen
First let me bore you with the facts: In 2003, the Ministry of Health estimated 650,000 individuals became ill due to food poisoning in BC. Food poisoning associated costs are estimated at $1089 per case, and food-borne illness and gastroenteritis result in 19.7 million annual sick days in Canada. (In layman's terms you can interpret this to mean "nausea, abdominal cramps, barfing and the runs")

Division 3, section 12 of the Food Premises Regulations indicate that every operator of food premises must ensure that all food on the premises is (a)protected from contamination, and (b) stored, handled, prepared, displayed and dispensed in a sanitary manner.

Section 13 states: An operator of food premises must not store, display, offer for sale or sell food that is contaminated or unfit for human consumption.

The Food Safety Act, part 1, section 2 states food safety responsibility to the consumer is as follows: (2) An operator is responsible for ensuring that the food in his or her food establishment is safe for human consumption, and that there shall be No sale of contaminated food (3) An operator must not sell or distribute to a person any item of food that is contaminated or otherwise unfit for human consumption.

As a mother, wife, daughter and all the other roles in my life in which I am responsible for procuring food, storing food, preparing and serving the best quality of food possible to my family, friends and sometimes even my community. This is one of my many jobs, and I take it very seriously.

Canada is my home and I have never, until recently, looked at a head of lettuce while I washed it and asked myself "is this going to make my family sick or worse yet even kill them?" I have been feeding people either privately or professionally for over 30years and this has never been an issue for me. I have held a valid food-safe certificate since they first year they were available and scored 100% on my last test for renewal. I am no dummy where food is concerned.

So recently I was shopping at our local super-big fantastic local grocery store and thought I would treat my husband to a nice plate of special cheeses now that we have a little extra money to spare. I found myself in front of the Brie and other specialty cheeses at this super-big fantastic local grocery store and I carefully selected 4-5 big packages of this tasty treat, paid, and made my way home.

Later, I surprised my husband with the delectable plate all nicely spread out with various crackers, spreads, pickles and the like - what happened next is disgusting. With the first good sized bite the putrid smell of rotten-milk-like smell permeated my senses. After spitting out the offending mouthful and confirming that yes, it was the cheese, anger swelled up that yet again I have been sold rotten food from this food retail outlet. (I don't know why I keep going back, maybe because there are so few options here.)

Here is a list of some previous problems I have had from this one particular sstore. Bought a slab of Filet steak ($80) and opened it and was assaulted by a smell of rank rot. Had to make a special trip to return items. Bought frozen puff pastry h'orderves (4-5 boxes: approx $35) and opened the boxes to find a slab of frozen re-hardened mush that had been defrosted and refrozen in a hunk in the bottom of the box. I then checked the other 4 boxes from different sections of their freezer and found they were all the same. Also had to make a special trip back to the store to return these items. Bought a box of frozen chicken breasts ($30) - same thing, a thawed and re-frozen solid hunk, again stuck to the bottom of the box - another special trip to return. Bought "fresh" chicken ($33) from the meat section and got it home to cook it and upon opening was again assaulted by the stench of rotten meat. Another special trip to return it. Bought bulk "lean" hamburger only to cook it and pull out approximately 5 cups of pure grease/fat. Another trip to return it. Those are just the items that I can remember off the top of my head.

Now the first thing to ask is: did I check the "best before" dates? Yes I did, according to the dates the food should have been good. The second thing to ask is how long did I have the product before I discovered it was bad? Not long at all, in all cases less than 24hrs. Did I come straight home and put it directly in my fridge/freezer? Oh yes I did... I might mention I have had my food-safe for approximately 20 yrs.

So I went to the store and noticed that heat was blowing from above on the "fresh" chicken which was in a obviously frozen state . The heat was also noted blowing on the frozen boxes of chicken etc. in the other aisle. This is a food-safe problem. When I asked the staff they said that it was defrosting. I noted the label did not say "previously frozen" anywhere on the labeling, not to mention that it is pretty common knowledge you don't use multiple warm temperatures over days and days to defrost chicken or any type of food. Then there are the avocados that look fine but are all black on the inside from ohhh, maybe being frozen? (Just guessing here) This is another problem. I tried to talk to the staff, at different times about it but got nowhere. They just work there and I can't really get upset can I?

I called the food inspector about 2 years ago and he paid them a visit. Things were a little bit better for awhile with the chicken but now are back to being worse than ever. There is only one food inspector for the whole area so how can he possibly keep track of every restaurant and grocery store in all the communities?

Note taken: don't buy meat there. Or use the hand baskets to carry food because they are disgusting and never cleaned. Or buy vegetables there because the bins are filthy and the veggies are in unknown condition, and so on and so on. Is this is what food quality has come to in Terrace? Are we just that town up north where low end or downright rotten food is passed off to us at premium prices? Do we have a right to receive quality food for the extremely high prices we pay?

So I had limited my shopping at this store to just cheese. Now this. I really have tried to be positive and deal with this in a "nice" way; talking to staff to raise awareness, or just keeping my mouth shut and returning my items quietly. I check my "best before" dates very carefully before selecting an item all the while, trying not to focus on the extra time for trips and extra money for gas to return the offensive items, never mind the assault to the dignity of my taste buds and digestive system.

So now I have come to the point where I am wondering if anyone else has noticed that the food quality is lacking in certain food source locations here in the north? Apparently it is common to think you have the flu with food poisoning. Maybe people aren't aware that if chicken has been frozen it can't be taken home and re-frozen. or: maybe the super-big fantastic local grocery store should handle their food according to safe food practices of the Canadian Acts and Regulations where storage and transportation is concerned, and then label their food correctly?

Maybe the only way to let them know we don't want bad food is to return the food that you buy that is rotten, spoiled or rancid, to the store that you bought it from. Maybe this is the only way we are going to get the message across is to put it back on the corporations that are taking advantage of us.
Now to the staff at the stores I go to where I get fresh food; I commend you for the wonderful job you do. This is not a problem with you; but rather a problem within the organization in which you work. To the men and women who are smiling and polite, where I get good food - I commend you and thank you! PS. I don't shop at the super big fantastic grocery store anymore

Links below for regulations, acts, and Center for Disease control food info.
Same old song
Comment by drugless on 18th October 2011
A few years ago, I purchased some frozen toaster strudels for my children. When my daughter put one in the toaster, she complained that it smelled funny. I checked, and these "frozen" products were covered with mold. Frozen food doesn't mold unless it is thawed and left at room temperature for quite some time before being refrozen. I contacted the manufacturer and found out that the food was also old stock, six months out of date (this was based on the code as there was no Best Before date on the product). When I checked the remaining products in the freezer, all were out of date, and you could tell from the boxes that they had thawed.

We have also taken back other products as well to that particular store. Now, we do not buy anything perishable at that store -- any time we need frozen foods, we get it from one of the other stores in town. We complained to the store manager and to the head office, but nothing was ever done.
Email head office Customer Service
Comment by c. sandecki on 16th October 2011
I'm guessing which store you are speaking of, but it often helps to email Customer Service at Head Office. Most companies have a website space to hear complaints or comments. This may be your one and only hope of action. Managers and staff can be hemmed in by rules ( sometimes used as excuses).
The problem of heat being blown on the freezer section sounds like a poor design that only management has the power and funds to correct.
Never suffer in silence. Your dollars are too hard to come by.
Wanna know how the restaurants fare???
Comment by Maggie Jo on 16th October 2011
I ran into some serious health issues eating in town. One experience was from eating a lunch egg'ed sammich from an establishment in town ...only to get utterly SICK at work 3 hours LATER! I went online to discover that particular restaurant failed repeatedly to keep temperatures regulated in their restaurant!

UGH! R U KIDDING ME?!?!?!!!! Why isn't there a NOTICE on their frickin' restaurant door that patrons enter at their own risk?!?!

Check out this website and engage yourselves in demanding from each restaurant in town that their kitchens are up to par to even serve food in the first place:

Yeah...I think I'll save myself some $$ from eating out and cook meals in my own home with my 4 cutting boards that serve as seperate entitites:
- One cutting board for raw meat which is promptly dissinfected afterwards
- One cutting board for slicing up cooked meat (again...promptly dissinfected afterwards)
- One cutting board for cutting veggies
- One cutting board for cutting bread.

This = NO cross contamination involvement.

MUCH SAFER eating at home, people. And then if we get sick, there's no one else to blame in negligent behaviour, but ourselves.
Comment by Linda on 15th October 2011
Yes I am pretty sick of the garbage that is in our stores, the so called "fresh" fruit, those mouldy packs of strawberries and blueberries or those nuclear green banana's which by the time they ripen are flavourless.

I can't wait, the mandarins are in now, looking forward to bringing home a box that is taped shut only to discover that just below the top layer is a mouldy rotten clump of what was probably a great bunch of oranges several weeks prior when it was packages and sent.

I also find I cannot stock up more then 2 days of fruit or vegetables here, if they are not rotten when I buy them, they go bad within 2 days.

Not only is all of this frustrating but yes, they allow this garbage to be sold, it frustrates me to no end, first we get gouged for where we live with the outrageous food prices and they then sell us old unsafe crap disguised as fruit and vegetables!
Food is better in the United States.
Comment by Janice P. Robinson on 15th October 2011
Love to eat out. I am a skinny food expert. Eating is best in the United States. Vancouver has the best of our fruit, veggies, etc. We get leftovers.

Need to know a Scotian to sample some delectable, real lobster. What are these, crayfish?

No pride in their service.
Best Before
Comment by James on 15th October 2011
Another point to make about "Best Before" is that it allows grocery stores to sell products after that date. Items only have to be pulled from shelves if the sticker says "Expires". Well guess what nothing says expires. I've seen this store selling milk for a $1.00 a week past the "Best before" date. When I contacted the health department I was told there was nothing they could do.

On another trip I noticed a person in produce stocking the shelves with moldy blueberries. When I pointed out that they were moldy (a lot moldy not just a bit here or there) I was told "That's how they came off the truck." He continued to stock the shelves.