January 8, 2012

NOTHING COSTS MORE THAN IT USED TO:

What Happens To Old And Expired Supermarket Foods (Nadia Arumugam, 1/06/12, Forbes)
 
And the Food and Drug Administration approves of outdated fare! The government agency determines that expiration dates are simply an indication of optimum quality as deemed by the manufacturer. "Foods can remain safe to consume for some time beyond sell-by and even use-by dates provided they are handled and stored properly," says Dr Ted Labuza, professor of food science at the University of Minnesota. For fresh produce and refrigerated foods this means storage at below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Canned foods and shelf-stable goods like salad dressings, Labuza adds, can be consumed for years beyond their expiration dates. While their quality might suffer, for example emulsified dressings may split, they will not pose a safety hazard unless contaminated. Apart from baby formula and certain types of baby foods, product dating is not even required by federal regulations. [...]

According to a 2005 FMI Supermarkets and Food Bank study, more than half the 8360 supermarkets surveyed donated to food banks 100,000 pounds of food that they could not sell (comprising of outdated, damaged and out of season products) annually. Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank which serves over 1200 soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food pantries and other charity agencies, is one such recipient. According to Executive Director John Arnold, up to 40 percent of the food that they receive is close to expiring or already expired.

If there is any doubt over the safety or the quality of a food, the bank's certified dietician will be brought in and it is subjected to a formal "testing" procedure. When it comes to a perishable item, there are clear indicators of quality. "If it's going bad there's rarely any mystery! It lets you know, either with its appearance or its smell or its texture," says Arnold.

Still despite general confidence amongst food banks that expired foods can be safely distributed to their agencies, not everyone agrees. According to Anne Goodman, Executive Director of the Cleveland Foodbank in Ohio, "when we get retail products from grocery stores we sort out products which are past their expiration date and we throw them away. We never take a chance."

Still, perhaps if Goodman had heard the comment a certain manufacturer once told Arnold, she might be less cautious. "We put enough preservatives in our food to embalm an elephant," the manufacturer confessed.

Posted by at January 8, 2012 8:44 AM
  

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