Quality Testing | Quick Turnaround

What happens to expired supermarket food?

Expired Supermarket FoodsHave you ever thought about this question. With over 15,000 different product in an average supermarket, (according to Food Marketing Institute) stores must do something with expired  items.

I came across this article in Forbes “What Happens To Old and Expired Supermarket Foods” by Nadia Arumugam – January 6, 2012  – Please read this article, it has a lot of information that you may/may not be aware of. Here are some of the items that I wanted to highlight:

  • Fresh vegetables and meats are often cooked up for in-store deli and salad counters before they spoil. Other food is given away to food banks, sold to salvage stores and disposed of in the garbage.
  • The Food and Drug Administration approves of outdated food. “The FDA determines that expiration dates are simply an indication of optimum quality as deemed by the manufacturer.”
  • Dr. Ted Labuza – University of Minnesota states that canned foods and shelf life – stable foods  like dressings can be consumed for years beyond their expiration dates. Quality may suffer, but they are not hazardous.
  • Many reclamation centers and discount grocery stores often purchase the outdated, expired canned items and sell the food products at a discounted rate up to 50% of the original price.  Many people on fixed incomes or restricted incomes purchase these items on a weekly basis. Patricia Quillen, owner of Country Discount Grocery indicates that sales have increased nearly 40% from 2010.
  • Other people have made a life-style decision to find food outside of supermarkets by picking through trash for their food.

As I read this article, all I could think about was food safety. Isn’t there some way our food production could have a quality expiration date and a final disposal date? Isn’t this the reason companies perform their own shelf-life testing. I find it really unbelievable that food salvage  stores are really growing in sales at a rapid pace.  I also think it would have been interesting if the article would have mentioned “Whole Foods” and the steps it takes with respect to expired foods.  I also, think food waste recycling companies like, EcoScraps will be getting more attention in the future.

With the focus on e.Coli and salmonella always in the news with respect to food recalls, maybe its time to look at the whole food retail market and see if there are ways that food could be made more available, without sacrificing potential food safety.  Some comments were made that food is safe, but it is important to note, and the article does note this that certain food products like baby formula and baby foods are regulated for product dating. Maybe more food items should be monitored and regulated as well.

A very interesting article! What items struck you as you read this article? Please share your thoughts.

Picture via Southern Foodways Alliance

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