Police investigate tampering at George Weston bakery

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: George weston foods

Around 2.5 million Top Taste cakes have been pulled from shelves
across Australia, after the discovery of dangerous objects in a
handful of products.

George Weston Foods, owner of the cake brand produced at a bakery in Queensland, launched a nationwide recall at the weekend, after a consumer found a needle in one of its products.

The Kedron bakery is now being investigated by a large team of police, as the current recall appears to be linked to earlier problems with tampering.

In January, authorities in Victoria were alerted to a Top Taste cake containing a razor blade. However after carrying out an investigation of the bakery along with Queensland authorities, they declared it to be an isolated incident.

But another product containing a 14cm iron bar has also reached the marketplace, and the company has itself picked up on two products containing foreign objects, including a paper clip, before they reached store shelves.

A company spokesman told AP-Foodtechnology.com that about 95 per cent of Top Taste cakes and pastries were believed by the firm to have been removed from shelves.

"It's always possible that there may be a few scattered pockets of products left but we have people driving around to reach more remote areas and also published ads in all the major newspapers to alert consumers to the recall,"​ said the spokesman.

The firm will also start destroying an estimated 1.5 million product items sitting in warehouses, and operations at Kedron have been suspended.The recall will cost the company "millions of dollars",​ said the spokesman, but he added that consumers had been largely supportive.

"Our consumer information line has taken more than 1,000 calls in the first few days but there's a lot of sympathy from people for the company,"​ he said.

Tampering with products can occur at different stages along the food production and distribution line but the spokesman admitted that given the large-scale investigation at the bakery, with its 230 staff, suspicions appear to lie at the manufacturing plant.

Despite some criticism that the company did not launch a full investigation earlier, it is standing by its initial position that "it acted in a timely and responsible manner to this issue,"​ said the spokesman.

Politicians meanwhile have criticised the food safety system for failing to prevent the products reaching the marketplace, and the debate could have some impact on the regulations for reporting consumer risk issues.

Currently, recalls have to be co-ordinated by authorities in the state where a problem product is manufactured, even if it has been sold in another state and alerted to authorities there.

Reporting of contaminated food is also voluntary. However Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has indicated to reporters that legislation requiring mandatory reporting of contaminated food will be fast-tracked through Parliament, possibly as soon as next week.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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