RFG admits it told Michel’s Patisserie franchisees to ignore use-by dates

By Nick Hall | 06 May 2019 View comments

Embattled franchisor Retail Food Group (RFG) has come under fire once again, this time over food safety at its Michel’s Patisserie chain.

On Saturday, a report from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed a series of memos from RFG to Michel’s franchisees, requesting that they ignore expiry dates on packaging.

The franchisees were then asked to adopt a new date, which ranged anywhere between two and six months from the original shelf-life recommendation.

The move reportedly caused controversy among the network’s franchisees, who, under the terms of their agreements, are required to purchase stock from RFG.

RFG’s response

According to the SMH reports, the extensions have prompted the NSW Food Authority to refer RFG for investigation to its counterpart in Queensland, where RFG is headquartered.

However, a spokesperson for RFG said that the brand had received no contact from food safety regulators.

“RFG has not been contacted by regulators regarding any concerns with our food safety standards and if it were then it would fully co-operate in the best interests of consumers,” the spokesperson told Inside Franchise Business.

The franchisor acknowledged extending the use-by dates, but went on to confirm the products had been withdrawn from sale.

“Retail Food Group follows strict standards with regard to food quality and any product date extension was granted following written approval from the supplier and with consumer safety top of mind. Regardless, RFG has taken voluntary action and is in the process of withdrawing any products which had received approved date extensions from our suppliers,” the spokesperson said.

“RFG audits its suppliers and distributors regularly and will remove any supplier from its network if they are deemed to have contravened relevant food safety regulations.”

Michel’s Patisserie quality concerns

This isn’t the first time RFG-branded Michel’s Patisserie has found itself in hot water over product quality.

Back in February, the Brisbane District Court found that the brand had misled two Townsville-based franchisees back in 2012.

Former franchisee Frederick Guirguis alleged that products supplied by RFG were often late and of poor quality, despite assurances by the franchisor that stock would be delivered timely.

Guirguis revealed that the Brisbane-based supplier had gone into liquidation shortly before the Townsville outlet was opened. This effectively forced all Queensland-based franchisees to source stock from the Sydney supplier, more than 2000km away.

Fallout from the parliamentary inquiry

The latest scandal comes just weeks after the joint committee handed down a scathing review of RFG in its Fairness in Franchising report.

The report suggested that the franchisor had damaged the reputation of the sector in Australia, urging an investigation by the competition regulator, the corporate regulator and the Australian Taxation Office.