Spawning chips

Spawning chips

Only the best quality potatoes are selected for Lay’s chips. That’s what Simba, producer of these chips, claims. Alas, that’s not strictly true – as one customer discovered. MARISKA MORRIS reports

Lay’s believes “little moments can turn an ordinary day into a great day”. For one customer, however, a moment turned into a nightmare!

On January 23, Carla Nunes bought a packet of Thai sweet chilli-flavoured Lay’s chips. After eating a few chips, she noticed something grey on the contents. On closer inspection, she discovered moth eggs on her chips and a dead moth in the packet.

Nunes contacted Lay’s via its Facebook page. She was told a consultant would be in contact with her. After hearing nothing for a week, she posted images of the chips and moth to Facebook.

“Very disappointed (to say the least) in Lay’s South Africa. After informing them early this week to the fact that I’ve found a dead moth and eggs in my packet of chips, I’ve yet to have anyone contact me. Where is the quality control and customer service? This isn’t a packet of stale chips I’m complaining about. Shocking,” her post read.

A dead moth was found by a SHEQ Management reader in a new pack of Lay's. along with eggs it had laid on the chips.Finally, by Saturday, January 28, Simba contacted Nunes. She was assured that an investigation was taking place and she would receive a written response in seven to 14 working days (at the time of going to print in mid-March she had yet to receive that response).

How could this have happened? Does Simba have adequate quality-control measures in place? We posed these questions to the chip manufacturer, and received a response from Michelle Berman from Atmosphere Communications, public relations firm for Simba. “The safety of consumers is always our number one priority and we take matters like this very seriously,” said Berman, who added that Simba had immediately conducted an investigation.

“Unfortunately, the bag and its contents had already been discarded, so we were unable to recover it for the investigation. However, we have carried out a thorough investigation at our production plant and can confirm there has been no deviation in our strict quality-control procedures,” she told SHEQ MANAGEMENT.

Berman was unable to disclose the quality-control procedures in place “due to safety, proprietary and security reasons”.

Nunes was surprised at the response. “I threw the packet of chips away. I regret doing this now, but didn’t think at the time that I would need to preserve the evidence. How do they explain this incident? I fail to see how the moth got in there if there was nothing wrong with the company’s quality control procedures,” she pondered.

In an attempt to obtain answers, we turned to Nathalie Leblond, marketing communication manager at Rentokil Initial South Africa. We asked her how a moth could possibly get into a packet of chips. She emphasised that, without visiting the specific site, it was difficult to say exactly how this could occur.

A dead moth was found by a SHEQ Management reader in a new pack of Lay's. along with eggs it had laid on the chips.“One would need to establish whether this was just a very unfortunate once-off incident – a ‘casual intruder’ – or a symptom of a more serious problem, an actual infestation,” she explained. “The moth may have been unknowingly imported into the sterile environment on a piece of machinery, or a worker’s clothing.  

“A full site inspection would need to be conducted and the possibility of a stored product insect (SPI) infestation eliminated,” Leblond noted.

Despite the unfortunate event, she explained that all food facilities, such as Simba, comply with hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) regulations and are audited accordingly.

Pest control is only one of the many HACCP prerequisites. Monitoring systems need to be in place specifically for SPI according to third-party auditors YUM! and the American Institute of Baking (AIB) standards. These companies make use of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards established in 2000.

“The YUM! and AIB audits are meant to establish whether food manufacturers are fully compliant with good manufacturing processes. GFSI requirements are very stringent in comparison to local standards. They are also very specific in terms of pest-control device quantities, visit frequencies and infestation management,” Leblond explained.

“While every precaution is taken and the HACCP system helps to identify any potential risk to food safety, it is only a risk-management tool and is not fail-safe,” she concluded.

Although Nunes felt ill for a few days, she is unsure whether it was because of the contaminated chips or psychological harm. She hasn’t eaten any chips since the incident. When asked whether she would eat Lay’s chips again, Nunes seemed doubtful.

“I still feel sick when I think about it. You really don’t expect to find that sort of thing in a packet of chips. It’s not exactly a cheap brand, so I expected the quality control to be much better,” she concluded.

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