Tesco fined £7.5m after telling customer her mouldy grapes were ‘safe’ to eat

Tesco was slapped with a hefty fine after displaying out of date items claiming they were "safe" to eat.

The bizarre claim was made by a food expert on behalf of the supermarket giant as it tried to 'avoid prosecution' for selling dozens of out of date products in three stores in the city.

But the argument was completely dismantled by a district judge who branded the grapes 'disgusting' before fining Tesco Stores Ltd £7.5m for committing more than 20 offences under the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations, Birmingham Live reports.

Birmingham City Council, which had accused the firm of 'playing Russian roulette' with the health of customers, released a photograph of the pot of grapes.

They declared the huge fine against 'one of the UK's biggest supermarket retailers' should act as a 'warning' to others about displaying out of date food.

Mark Croxford, head of environmental health at the council, said: "Supermarkets have a duty of care to ensure the food and drink they display for sale are in date and therefore safe to consume – however visits by our officers and the public complaints show this is not always the case. The purpose of the use-by date is to protect the health of the consumer.

"The manufactures put the date on their products to guarantee the food is safe and ignoring this date completely undermines consumer safety.

"There were numerous missed opportunities to check the dates on these products and remove them from display – and the fact incidents were found on several occasions, in different stores and over 14 months, was is a major concern.

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"This case offers a warning to all retailers to ensure their stock is in date and that if found to be breaching these regulations we will take action – as we have successfully done against one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains."

Inspectors found 67 items that were past their 'use by' date at the three different stores across the city.

Read the full list of expired items here.

Tesco's food expert had argued the items were actually safe to consume, with their lawyers stating the use by date served a 'brand and quality' purpose instead.

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District Judge Shamim Qureshi, passing sentence at Birmingham Magistrates' Court on Monday, April 19, disagreed with the claim.

The judge described the expert's view as 'cavalier' and accused Tesco of trying to 'undermine the food regulatory system' by relying on the opinion.

Tesco eventually pleaded guilty to all offences, which Judge Qureshi described as the most 'reluctant guilty plea in legal history'.

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However, the firm stressed that the incidents were 'isolated' and denied there was a 'systematic' problem in its shops.

A spokesman added: "We’re disappointed that a small number of out of date products were found on sale in three stores in 2016/17. The safety of our customers is always our priority and these incidents are not representative of the high standards of safety and quality we expect in Tesco stores.

"We took immediate action to address this at the time and we want to reassure our customers that we have robust procedures in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen."

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