Lots of smoke but not much fire; health inspectors clear Valoroso Foods of serious violations

Joe Valoroso says the close examination of his business by the Interior Health Authority will make it better.

KELOWNA - If Joe Valoroso is bitter about his specialty food store being called out for label tampering and other minor food safey infractions, he’s now showing it.

“No one is entitled to judge anybody else,” he simply says.

In fact, the president of Valoroso Foods seems quite forgiving about having his name dragged through the mud on social media, after allegations of product lable tampering were levelled at his family-run business last week by an ex-employee.

Those allegations prompted a snap inspection last Friday of his Sutherland Avenue store by the Interior Health Authority's health protection branch, which shared its findings with the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Earlier this week, the health authority announced it had found 10 infractions of the B.C. Health Act and Food Premises regulations, but nothing to warrant shutting the place down.

The most serious sounding of the violations? Having food unfit for human consumption on the premises. 

What it means? “There was a box of stuff in the cooler that was ready to be thrown away,” he says. “It was still in the cooler because of the smell and if you leave it out, it gets worse. We were keeping it in there until the people came to get the trash."

The Food Inspection Agency also announced Thursday, March 25, it had found some violations of the Food and Drug Act, but again, nothing worth forcing Valoroso to close his doors.

“In February, 2015, the CFIA inspected this facility and reviewed requirements pertaining to best before and expiration dates,” agency spokeswoman Tammy Jarbeau said, noting that food with a durable shelf life of greater than 90 days — such as cured meats and sausages —  do not require a best before date and altering it is not a violation of the act.

“The CFIA will continue to work with and monitor the company to ensure compliance with health and safety legislation,” Jarbeau added.

In fact, Valoroso shut the place down himself, vowing to root out any out-dated or spoiled food during an inventory all three of his Central Okanagan locations, which include a warehouse on Richter Street and a second retail location in West Kelowna.

“We found very little and that’s in $4-million worth of inventory,” he says. “We have 1,500 items and 800 are perishable. As careful as you are, there will always be something. Of course, you can never be careful enough handling food."

Valoroso has also started apologizing to anyone who would listen, on his website and through the media, about how he and his family value their clientele.

“To me, I have no products,” he says. “My only product is people and they are the most important thing. The moment you forget that, then you shouldn’t be in business.”

Valoroso’s mea culpa seems to have worked. After reopening Tuesday morning, March 24, a steady stream of customers made its way back to his doors and he says there has been a minor drop in sales.

"You can see for yourself, the parking lot is full,” he says.

If Valoroso harbours any ill will toward the two inspection authorities, he refuses to say.

“They are tough but that’s a good thing," Valoroso says. "Those violations they found were not going to hurt anybody. But in a way, this maybe will make us even better. We sometimes get so involved in our business that we neglect the little things, but they won’t let us forget. Even the little things, if you let them go, they can create a situation.”

When given the chance, Valoroso again says to his customers he's sorry.

“I would again like to apologize for what happened.” he says. “To the last day of my life, I will never have enough words to thank them.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infotelnews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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