Jill’s rule: ‘Read the small print’

Central Leader - - OPINION -

Gro­cery chain store bosses may have felt re­lief when gro­cery trou­ble-maker Shane Jones left Par­lia­ment last week with his study of big store busi­ness meth­ods un­fin­ished.

But, on a minia­ture scale, an­other cam­paigner is still on the charge.

I know be­cause Jill, re­tired, has been send­ing me her ev­i­dence of ap­par­ent fishy busi­ness – while she seeks an an­swer to a first let­ter seven weeks ago.

Then, in early April, she wrote to a su­per­mar­ket HQ – and to me.

‘‘I reg­u­larly shop at (name with­held – at this stage any­way) and I check your weekly fliers for spe­cials.

‘‘For many years I have pur­chased crumbed frozen fish fil­lets, hoki, deep sea cod, ter­ak­ihi, pro­cessed by In­de­pen­dent Fish­eries, Christchurch. New Zealand fish, pro­cessed in New Zealand, packed on trays in the fish depart­ment of your store.

‘‘In Jan­uary 2014, most of this range was not avail­able. I was pleased to see some come back in your freez­ers.

‘‘But, hor­ror – since Jan­uary, more than once, you ad­ver­tised New Zealand Crumbed Frozen Fish Fil­lets, 1kg packs, with small print on back of bag ‘ Pro­cessed in China’ on spe­cial at a lower price than New Zealand pro­cessed.

‘‘Fish sent to China would have to be shipped frozen, then thawed to process into fil­lets and crumb, then re­frozen to ship back to New Zealand. Health ex­perts ad­vise that once frozen food is thawed it should not be re frozen.

‘‘An­other point, ra­di­a­tion lev­els in some Chi­nese pack­ag­ing is above rec­om­mended safety lev­els.

‘‘Since the Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter there have been nu­mer­ous re­ports that fish caught off the west coast of Canada and the United States have high lev­els of ra­di­a­tion.

‘‘The Pa­cific Ocean does not have a wall around it, where do the Viet­namese catch their fish? Should New Zealand seafood be checked?

‘‘Who is re­spon­si­ble for check­ing ra­di­a­tion lev­els in im­ported un­cooked fish and other food? As a seller of im­ported fish do you mon­i­tor?

‘‘I look for­ward to your re­ply.’’ Jill had a long wait ahead. That let­ter drew this re­sponse – the first of four say­ing much the same thing but signed with dif­fer­ent names.

‘‘Dear Jill, thank you for your email and for bring­ing this mat­ter to our at­ten­tion. I sincerely apol­o­gise for the in­con­ve­nience caused. I have for­warded your query to the cat­e­gory man­ager and re­quested the depart­ment to con­tact you ur­gently. ‘‘Kind re­gards.’’ Jill wrote again. That drew a sug­ges­tion that the first re­ply had been de­layed be­cause they didn’t have a con­tact for her. (She had given her phone num­ber ear­lier.)

Ques­tion: If they didn’t have a con­tact ad­dress how did their let­ter reach her to tell her they didn’t have her con­tact de­tails? While Jill was wait­ing for a re­ply, she did her own re­search and wrote again:

‘‘Yes­ter­day there were two ex­am­ples – Se­lect 1kg bag South­ern Blue Whit­ing Fil­lets, made in China from New Zealand Whit­ing and Just Caught 1kg bag. Crumbed Whit­ing Fil­lets, pro­cessed in China from New Zealand wild caught.

‘‘Whit­ing are not a fish that in­habit New Zealand wa­ters. Check/google Wikipedia. South­ern Whit­ing are found in sea off south and south western Aus­tralia and some other Aus­tralian coasts, not Tas­ma­nia. An­other species (Pa­cific Whit­ing) in­habit the west coast of North Amer­ica.

‘‘I pre­sume that if they were caught in Aus­tralian wa­ters, they would still need to be frozen to ship to China. So as well as re­freez­ing, the source of fish is also in­cor­rect.

‘‘I am also still in­ter­ested in in­for­ma­tion on check­ing ra­di­a­tion of all im­ported seafood (and pack­ag­ing on items im­ported from China).’’ So am I, Jill. Watch this space.

Frozen fish: How do you process a lo­cally caught frozen fish in China?

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