Holland and Barrett – Delivering Rotten Food

The DeliveyDemon has in the past bought aloe vera juice from Holland and Barrett. The sealed opaque bottles usually have shelf life well over a year into the future so it makes sense to buy a few at a time and save the delivery hassle. But the last purchase from Holland and Barrett will definitely be the last one – the DeliveryDemon is strongly opposed to being expected to pay for rotten food.

The first bottle was OK. The second bottle was anything but – the colour of the urine of someone who was severely dehydrated, with a smell to match.

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The one on the right stinks and tastes foul

Not a pretty sight! Bottle after bottle, including ones from the same batch, are clear and pale like the glass on the left. Then comes one which looks foul, smells bad, and a tentative taste makes it obvious that it would be dangerous to consume any more.

A reputable company would clearly be glad to know that there was a problem in their production line or product handling. But Holland and Barrett are clearly not a reputable company. And they insist that, when they sell in England, English Law does not apply to them.

It took from 27 July to 18 August – 23 days – for Holland and Barrett to try and wriggle out of their responsibilities on the basis that their process insists that returns must be made within 30 days. Clearly a process with that sort of delay is designed to force out the vast majority of complaints. The DeliveryDemon has a message for Holland and Barrett – your internal process is irrelevant when you sell rotten food.

First comes the Food Safety Act Section 14. Government guidance on this act says that the retailer must:

  • make sure food is safe to eat
  • make sure you don’t add, remove or treat food in a way that makes it harmful to eat
  • make sure the food is the same quality that you say it is
  • withdraw unsafe food and complete an incident report
  • tell people why food has been withdrawn or recalled, eg a leaflet or poster

 

The retailer has additional duties:

  • You must tell the Food Standards Agency (FSA) if you think any food your business:has sold is unsafe.
  • The FSA will tell you if the food must be withdrawn and customers asked to return it.
  • Submit a food safety incident report.

Clearly, by refusing to accept returns, Holland and Barrett is trying to weasel its way out of dealing with a food safety incident. Any company with this attitude obviously constitutes a significant risk to public health since it has chosen not to have in place the processes needed to comply with Food Safety Law.

That’s not the only legal breach either. The Consumer Rights Act makes unfair contract terms illegal, and Holland and Barrett are deliberately trying to hide behind unfair contract terms when they refuse to deal with food in sealed containers with a long shelf life whose rottenness becomes apparent more than 30 days after ordering.

  • Aloe Vera juice comes in a sealed, opaque bottle, so smell, colour and taste are not apparent on receipt.
  • The bottles have a shelf life which extends 18 months into the future, so a consumer may reasonably buy several bottles with the intention of using them over several months. Clearly, opening bottles on receipt in order to check whether the contents are rotten instantly reduces the storage potential.

To add insult to injury, Holland and Barrett emails glibly lie that:

  • We are proud of the quality of our products and as such, if you find that your products arrive with you in an unsatisfactory condition, please return the unopened products to the following address (note the weasel word ‘unopened’ in there).

The DeliveryDemon acknowledges that things do go wrong in retailing. Equally, the measure of a good company is the way it reacts when things go wrong. In the DeliveryDemon’s experience, Holland and Barrett as a company are as rotten as its products.

If you want to follow this saga to find out whether Holland and Barrett decides to live up to its legal responsibilities, or whether it clings to its policy of relying on unfair contract terms to conceal its food safety breaches, follow the DeliveryDemon on Twitter.

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