The story first broke last December on Swedish Television (SVT). The investigative program Uppdrag Granskning reported that ICA stores routinely engaged in several deceptive practices to change or extend "best before" dates. These practices included repackaging meat that had already been on display, regrinding and repackaging ground meat, and rinsing and repackaging old or sticky sausage meats.
The deception is apparently long-standing. Hans Hallén, a former quality control manager for ICA who was responsible for monitoring the performance of the chain's stores in southern Sweden between 2003 and 2005, claims that he informed ICA management of the practice during his tenure with the company. His position, along with that of the seven other quality control managers, was terminated in 2005.
Public prosecutors are preparing to lay charges against the stores that were identified by the SVT program's investigation. Prosecutor Solveig Sörlien is hoping to achieve more than a slap on the ICA wrist by imposing what is known as a "company fine" – a fine that is based on the extent to which the company profited by its illegal activities – rather than the very minor fine that is usually associated with an infraction of food safety regulations.
Swedish food inspectors had uncovered of more than 30 cases of mislabeling – ten of them involving ICA stores – even before Uppdrag Granskning broke the story. Nevertheless, after the scandal became public, ICA management denied any knowledge of the problem, while claiming at the same time that the practice was "...not systematic or widespread."
Maybe the Myanmar butcher shops aren't so bad after all?