ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler

What you need to know...when you find a foreign object in your food

It’s not a lottery ticket - no company’s going to cough up a big amount of money as compensation if you find an unappetising foreign object or UFO in your jar of coffee or tub of yoghurt - not unless you can prove the direct cost of being harmed by it.

What they must do is respond to your complaint quickly; collect the offending product from you; refund you for it, at least; investigate the source, and get back to you with their findings.

And if you were harmed by inadvertently eating a contaminated product, the company is legally obliged to pay your medical expenses and compensate you for loss of earnings.

That’s provided you can prove the link between the product and your illness, and that you have receipts for your medical expenses.

The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud’s latest annual report, released this month (AUGUST) includes the case of a consumer who complained that she’d found rat faeces in a packet of chips and that this had affected her emotionally and physically.

She wasn’t happy with the R75 voucher and hamper from the manufacturer - she demanded R30K as compensation. A full quality control and environmental health inspection of the chip plant followed and no evidence of rat infestation was found. 
What the investigators did find was a gnawed hole in the corner of the chip packet, too big to have gone unnoticed in the plant, and through the many checkpoints to the shelf, they said, so it was most likely that rat found its way into that packet of chips after sale.

And given that no other complaints about that batch of chips had been received, that was the end of that - the Ombud sided with the company.

I should add here that in the 107/8 financial year, this Ombud sided with the consumer in 64% of the 5000+ cases it investigated.

And remember, if you go onto social media with claims which turn out to be untrue, that’s defamation, and the company could well take legal action against you.


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