While grocery shopping recently, Detective Foodsafe® was disappointed — though unfortunately not surprised — to see a food label on a meat product was expired!
Not just expired — but already three weeks expired. Worse yet, it was not just one package but an entire shelf!
Doesn’t this store care about the health of its customers and their families?
Time for her to take action against food contamination!
Customer Safety Vs. Retailer Indifference
Though she was not on a case at the time, Detective Foodsafe knew that what she just witnessed on the supermarket shelf was not safe for anyone.
It is time for her to go into action to protect people from food poisoning.
Naturally, after discovering a full shelf of expired processed meat, Detective Foodsafe walked the aisles in that department to find someone to help.
“Hello, can you please help me? I need to tell someone something right now, it is important for your customers!”
“What can I help you with?” asked the grocery stocker.
“You have a shelf full of meat product that has expired dates from last month! Are you aware of that?” Detective Foodsafe inquired, with some passion in her voice.
“No but I will check it out when I finish with stocking these cases” the store employee responded.
Food Safety and Expiration Dates
Exasperated, Detective Foodsafe realized more action was necessary to correct this potential food safety danger.
The grocery stocker’s face seemed to be saying, why was she so upset. It is just a date on a label, right?
Well…it’s a lot more than “just a date.”
Food product dating, with an actual date stamp, not just a code number, is used to guide grocers on how long a food product should be sold. It also alerts the consumer to how safe as well as if the product is at its best quality.
If the product says ‘best-by’, it could be purchased after its date. If the label says ‘use-by’, it should be discarded after that date.
There is no real Federal regulation about food dating using the use-by or sell-by dating method. If a date is used on the package by a manufacturer, it must indicate both a day and month.
Dangers of Expired Foods for Consumers
A ‘sell-by’ date should be purchased before the date expires.
A ‘use-by’ date indicates that last possible date for peak of quality and is determined by the manufacturer.
The food items Detective Foodsafe found expired stated the month and day and read ‘prepare and refrigerate’ according to package date. Pretty confusing. Is that the use by or sell by date? It is hard for most consumers to know if it is going to be safe after purchased.
Expired dates alone do not lead to potential safety risk. Other conditions could lead to potential food safety risk. The food could have been mishandled in transport or storage. Foods could be harmed by cross contamination, temperature loss, or unsafe handling. Pathogens can grow when food is mishandled and cause foodborne illness.
First-In, First-Out Storage
Supermarkets and home pantries should be following a standard practice when storing food known as first-in, first-out (FIFO).
This is a way to properly rotate food products so that you will use the food nearest the expiration date first.
This should be done for all types of food products in the store and in your home pantry.
Supermarket shelf stockers need to be aware when new cans and containers are added to the shelves, the oldest go up front and those expiration date furthest in the future go in back.
Those who manage the stockers should be aware as well.
Detective Foodsafe decided this grocery store may not be using this safety method for storing their food. She decided to look more closely at some other products that were at risk for pathogens when the expiration dates are passed.
Out-of-Date Products Around the Store
She found that there were milk containers with 7/31 in the front and 7/21 in the back. Most shoppers pull the first package so that whoever gets the one in the back is at risk for purchasing an expired product.
Canned vegetables were also stored with dates out of order, olive oil was not stored using the FIFO technique and bread was also dated incorrectly.
It was apparent that this grocery store needed some advice from Detective Foodsafe.
She proceeded to talk with the store manager and increase his awareness of the FIFO technique and what she found in the store. He should know how important proper stocking is to the health of his customers, the ability to reduce food waste and his store’s profitability when it is necessary to discard expired product.
The manager was very willing and open to her suggestions and encouraged her to come back to educate his inventory stocking personnel on proper FIFO storage standards.
“I would love to” said Detective Foodsafe.
Food safety is important for all of us!