Farine Management Team issued an official statement on their WeChat platform last night admitting to the use of expired flour. We also reached out to industry experts in the same field to comment on the situation.
The news started on Thursday when a whistle blower posted allegations and videos on social media platform Weibo. The statement published by Farine at 11:18pm, March 24, admits to the use of expired flour and apologizes for incompliance of Chinese law.
Excerpts from the statement:
" First of all, we want to apologize for any inconvenience due to Farine's recent closing and our delayed response as we are actively in contact with all parties involved to give the proper explanation…
…About the flour we use at Farine, we ship our flour from France and stock it in our warehouse in Shanghai. Due to the delay of Minhang central kitchen opening, our current flour stock expiry date has exceeded by a few months. We did use a small part of this stock. The use of this small part was based on best used before date, without realizing that China applies a strict earlier expiry date. This is clearly a mistake even though we obtain lab test from supplier to prove absolute safety of using this flour. We sincerely apologize for that and decide to change our internal control process to be in full compliance of Chinese regulations."
The next page includes points that Farine has vowed to keep, continuing their operation. It also hints to the bakery’s next shipment of flour, hinting a timeline of when the bakery would possibly reopen. We reached out to the management for a rough estimate of when Farine will reopen and have not yet received a reply. In the meantime, all locations associated with Franck Group, including Franck bistro, Rachel's, Far West, WIYF and Grains have been temporarily closed to keep press from reaching out to other members of the staff. Franck Group has been operating restaurants in Shanghai for more than 10 years. See the full statement here.
Following this news story, there has been a degree of hysteria about whether expired flour is dangerous. Flour can become rancid, and when it does, it's obvious. Flour can also be a breeding ground for weevils. But flour just past its posted expiration date is seldom a health risk.
An industry expert who asked to remain anonymous explained to us that the expiration date is set by the FDA and that the FDA calculates how much time it will take to the flour to go bad and then pads that number to be on the safe side.
“If flour is stored properly in good conditions and cold temperatures, it will not be a problem. But you never know how suppliers have kept the flour either. When they deliver it to us, you would never know, ” said one industry expert who prefers to remain anonymous.
The same person also said, “They found 2,300 bags of expired flour. These bags will last over 3-4 months, seeing how many stores they have, which makes it go even more past the use by date…It’s really sad to see this happen to Franck,” also adding that the decision most likely didn’t rest on one man’s shoulders.
“Basically if the flour is stocked in a dry and clean place. It's still safe even after the expiration date, but for your personal use only. When you use high quality with high prices, you must be extremely strict with food labels,” said Nicolas Ruaud, Director at Lost Heaven Bakery. “But even if the product is edible, you must throw it away. You can’t even use it for staff meals.”
There is a difference between operating as a business and as an individual. In your own home, you’ve probably smelled expired milk to see if it was still drinkable and gone ahead anyway. For businesses, however, the law is the law. And they are required to dispose of the products even if they are only one day past expiration.
In the meantime, as an act of solidarity for Farine, this meme has been circulating around WeChat. We're not so sure it's an accurate comparison...
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