11h October 2017

MEDIA STATEMENT

With regards to the recent programme Checkpoint screened on eNCA, herewith South Bakels’ response to this:

  • Our company policy does not allow for any product to be repackaged for shelf life extension without following strict food quality protocol.
  • There is a significant difference between ‘best before’ and ‘sell by’ dates. Our ‘best before’ dates are exceptionally conservative, and based on the worst possible handling and storage conditions - i.e. moisture, extreme heat and cross-contamination from other products.
  • For this reason, only products that pass our stringent food quality protocol will qualify for shelf life extension, and then only for a maximum of three months.
  • Strictly controlled shelf life extension is not unique to our company, but an accepted practice locally and internationally.
  • One dismissed employee referred to so-called 'maggots’ in our product.  We can confidently say that we have never detected this issue in any of our products. This is a malicious allegation by a disgruntled ex-employee who was dismissed for gross dishonesty.

Understanding the eNCA visuals:

  • Whilst we welcome the opportunity to address any issues regarding our quality assurance, we feel the eNCA programme was grossly misleading on a number of fronts.
  • Most of the visuals aired related to product and packaging taken from our demonstration and test bakery. This is situated in our warehouse but none of the product in this area is for sale. The product in this area is fresh but was kept in a used container for identification purposes, much in the same as you would use your biscuit or flour tin at home. We clarified this to the producers of the television programme, but they elected not to include this in their broadcast.
  • The depiction of vulnerable people and the suggestion that they could be harmed is grossly misleading and sensationalist - there was no evidence for this at all.
  • It is also extremely concerning that law enforcement officials failed to distinguish between quality and safety; to pronounce on issues of safety where no tests have been done is biased and prejudicial.
  • It is important to note that Bakels Head Office closed the Bloemfontein depot down as a precautionary measure until internal and external audits have vetted the quality of the operation.

Understanding the background to this story:

  • The two ex-employees of South Bakels interviewed on the programme valiantly tried to dignify their dismissal under the veil of “whistleblowing”. It is important for context to state that they were dismissed for gross dishonesty due to theft of money and product. The dismissed employees elected not to challenge their dismissals at the CCMA.

Our commitment to our customers:

  • We take any allegations of this nature very seriously and have therefore closed down our Bloemfontein branch until we have finalised our investigations.
  • Currently our Free State customers are being serviced from Johannesburg to ensure uninterrupted supply and this additional cost is not being passed on to our customers.
  • Since we became aware of this situation in Bloemfontein we have also sent additional technical staff to all our depots to conduct internal audits.
  • Traditionally the responsibility for quality control rested with the various branch managers. We have now identified a dedicated staff member in each depot to assist the Manager with this function. These employees are currently undergoing upskilling in this field.
  • We have been providing quality products to our customers for 69 years and this has been the first incident of this nature in our company’s long and proud history.
  • While the managers of the Bloemfontein branch chose to resign, our staff there remain on full pay while operations are suspended.
  • We are committed to re-opening the branch as soon as we are satisfied that all protocols with regard to food safety and quality assurance are in place.

GERHARD GROBBELAAR

MANAGING DIRECTOR