Caffè Nero staff at branch claim they switch sell-by dates to make food appear fresh
Current and former staff at a branch of Caffè Nero have claimed they changed the dates on muffins, cakes and scones to avoid food wastage, it has been reported.
An investigation by The Times found six people who had worked at the Chesham branch in Buckinghamshire claim they changed dates, while another 17 claim they knew of the practice.
However, 23 said they have never seen it and had no knowledge.
On Monday Mirza Sameer Khalid was in a branch in Chesham when he says he bought a mouldy raspberry and coconut crumble bar that had a March 11 label on it, he said.
When he removed it he found one for February 11, he claimed in a Facebook video.
One ex-manager told The Times he was taught to change dates by his bosses shortly after starting work as a trainee.
Another worker said they saw their colleagues print date labels with a machine and put them on cakes.
“They say they are frozen so the expiry date is something that’s just an ideal date, it’s not the exact expiration date,” they said.
Another former employee at the Chesham branch claimed customers who came in every day and had the same cake, particularly if they were the only ones who ordered it, could be eating out of date food half the time.
“This assistant manager explained that, when changing labels, I should do it out of customers’ view, and best outside the direct view of cameras,” they added.
Staff said the label changing was carried out to reduce food wastage, particularly of items such as pastries which have to be thrown out after a day.
None of the staff who spoke to the publication claimed senior central office staff encouraged the practice, instead saying it came from store managers keen to save money and stop waste.
A lawyer for Nero said the stores were issued with instructions not to change labels every month, something which was also covered in food safety training.
He said that the switching of labels had “never been tolerated” and that nobody in the “leadership team” would accept the act, unless told to do so by a supplier.
“Whilst Caffè Nero, like every responsible food retailer, is committed to minimising food waste and encourages employees at every level to ensure that stores are run efficiently, and not be overstocked with food that might go unsold or consumed, it is not the case that Caffè Nero employees are in any way incentivised to ‘change labels’,” the lawyer said.
In the past three years only 20 complaints about food had been made to Nero central office, he added.
The Food Standards Agency has asked the primary authority that advises councils nationally to investigate the claims.
Shops selling food are legally allowed to change dates, so long as they can prove the new date has been validated as microbiologically safe.
One former Nero store manage said those caught changing dates would be fired and that they did not allow the practice.
She added that it was an individual store thing and down to the person in charge of training staff.
A spokesman for Caffè Nero said: “We categorically deny any suggestion that extending the shelf life on food is practiced in our stores, and take any such allegation extremely seriously.
“We have a very strict policy on shelf life where no store is permitted to extend the product date unless instructed to do so by the supplier.
“Food safety and quality are paramount at Caffe Nero and we are investigating these allegations and will be taking action against any employee found contravening our policy.”