Criminal charges for ICA meat labelling scandal

Criminal charges for ICA meat labelling scandal
Public prosecutor Solveig Sörlien has filed formal charges against an ICA grocery store in the Stockholm suburb of Nacka for relabeling outdated packages of mince meat and putting them back on store shelves.

In the indictment, which implicates the head of sales and the section head of the ICA Maxi in Nacka, Sörlien contends that the employees’ actions violated Sweden’s food law, a crime which, strictly speaking, had no specific victims.

“Not that I know of, in any case. All consumers have the right to expect that the rules are being followed, so under that interpretation we are all victims of a crime,” Sörlien told the TT news agency.

Sörlien wants Nacka Stormarknad AB to pay a corporate fine of at least 350,000 kronor ($49,000).

By calling for a fine, Sörlein is effectively holding the entire company responsible, rather than only the store manager.

The ICA meat scandal was exposed in December 2007 by a the Sveriges Television documentary news show Uppdrag Granskning.

The program showed how ICA Maxi stores in the Stockholm suburbs of Botkyrka, Haninge, and Nacka,a s well as a store in nearby Södertälje had relabeled and sold packages of meat which had passed their original expiration dates.

Several more incidents of re-labeling at other ICA stores came to light following the report.

The fact that the prosecutor didn’t prosecute the head of the company demonstrates that the CEO wasn’t aware of the relabeling, said Per E. Samuelsson, who is representing the company in the case.

“The investigations, ours and the police’s, shows that a few employees in a few sporadic instances thought it was wrong to throw away perfectly good meat. They had sound reasoning, even if it violated the formal letter of the law,” Samulesson told TT, adding that relabeling wasn’t systematic and that there isn’t anything wrong with ICA’s procedures.

“The employees thought ‘the whole world is starving and he we are throwing out first rate mince meat’, and then Uppdrag granskning showed up,” he said.

“They crossed the street on a red light, but who hasn’t done that at some point.”