We regularly get our bread from Jalal Sons and do most of our shopping at its DHA Phase 5 outlet. This is the first time I have come across such a horrible experience with the store in the years of being their loyal customer. My husband and I got a little used to eating good quality bread in the UK and in Pakistan we found Jalal Sons to be doing a reasonable job at making bread. Just that my experience on June 26th 2015 of buying the famous Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn from Jalal Sons makes me want to question so much. Different expiry dates were displayed on the popcorn box containing three bags of popcorn, the outside flaps of the individual popcorn bags and the inside flaps of the popcorn bags. How is that even possible with a brand of ConAgra Foods? I opened up the packaging in the kitchen and told my daughter that the popcorn is bad so she wouldn’t be able to eat it. She didn’t question me because she saw the condition of the butter soaked packaging of the popcorn. We like to eat healthy food in our house and popcorn is an occasional treat for the kids. Why opt for Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn? Because it is healthier than the other popcorn brands available in local stores.
The popcorn box has a printed label of ‘Best by June 13 2016’ displayed on it. Sounds safe to eat. The popcorn bags inside the box tell a different story with a label of ‘Best by March 2016’. Still safe to eat but how come the stamps are all placed in different positions on the bags? How come the bags have a different expiry date from the box? Hmmmm. Upon opening the bags, the moment of truth happens. The stamp of one of the three inside flaps is smudged ((B) – Gosh! its the expired butter I tell you), another inside flap is stamped ‘Best by July 2014’ (A) and the third one is stamped ‘Best by August 2014’ (C). Does it sound like a world famous brand of popcorn to you? The inconsistency is uncanny and frightening.
This incident takes place just when I thought that I have had enough with food quality and related marketing issues in Pakistan. Last year I coauthored a business case study on the removal of McDonald’s breakfast tagline of “the world’s best breakfast” from their marketing campaigns. Speaking at the seminar on World Competition Day 2014 on the topic of “Unfair trade practices and loss to consumer welfare”, arranged by the Competition Commission of Pakistan, I spoke about how the consumer in Pakistan is undoubtedly at a loss by malpractices of big players and small ones. I want to be proven wrong but I am still looking for evidence against my argument.
Who is responsible for printing the conflicting expiry dates on the outside and inside of this popcorn box? Is there a factory somewhere in some obscure part of Punjab that prints millions by faking expiry dates? Even the glue on the packaged box of popcorn was anything but original. Branded packaged boxes open in a user friendly way. You don’t have to fight with the box in order to open it well. The entire experience makes me feel like not eating anything – bread, popcorn – anything.
I question as a Pakistani customer about my rights to safety and getting the value that I pay for. Sometimes people have referred to me as a consumer rights activist and I do feel that brands have an obligation to deliver on the brand promise. I am willing to pay more money to Jalal Sons only for getting better quality. The equation makes perfect sense if price premium actually comes with better quality. Its a call for action for everyone to check the expiry dates on every product and in every layer of the packaging vigilantly. Who wants to put poison in a bowl for their loved ones? No sane parent for sure! I would urge everyone who reads this to share the message so that more people are aware of malpractices. I thought of writing this as an open letter to the CEO of Jalal Sons but much to my dismay all the links in the “About Us” section on the website of Jalal Sons are in Latin! (http://www.jalalsons.com.pk/index.php?_a=viewDoc&docId=15). The website also has western models only!
If you have come across similar malpractices, please share your experiences. Lets help more people make better decisions about what they eat.