Jill’s rule: ‘Read the small print’
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?