A bit past expired
I was in a bit of a rush in the grocery yesterday. In addition to my usual grocery items, I was looking for a bit of meat that could be cooked quickly to eat alongside some leftover lentil soup. I was thrilled to find some pre-cooked chicken sausage (in a brand usually out of my price range) on "manager's special". It said "use or freeze by 3/9/09" so I put it in the cart thinking it was perfect since it expired that day and I was using it that day anyway. It wasn't until I go home that I realized that yesterday was 3/10 - one day beyond expiration. It looked and smelled fine, so I ate one anyway with no ill effect and froze the rest.
My questions are:
1) Should the grocery store still be selling these, or is it an oversight?
2) If not, should I call them and let them know so they can remove them from the shelf.
I'm not looking for a refund or anything, just wondering if I ought to give them an FYI in case there is an under-trained employee or a potential liability for them.
For me it'd depend on
1) how big the population is where I shop,
2) how regular a customer I am (do they know me on sight, or recognize me if they don't know my name),
3) Is this something that happens regularly, or was it just a little burble.
4) what time of day it was I was shopping (ie, did the employee who picks this stuff up not start working yet when I was out shopping?)
I'd be inclined to just dismiss it as a simple mistake unless it happened with more regularity, or I started noticing more packages like that in the meat case. :)
This happens primarily because in the United States with the exception of baby food product dating is not generally required. Some individual states my have regulations but there are actually few federal ones. It also get confusing because food manufacturers use sell-by, and best if used by, and used by dates and they all mean different things.
Personally I probably would not notify store management but then I am also the person that looks in the "reduced for quick sale" section of the meat counter when I shop. Recently I got some great prime fillets on the day listed as sell-by and they were great on the grill.
Since they say use or freeze by, i would say the product is totally fine. I used to work at a small fish smoking facility and the dates we used were use by dates. These dates (usually used for pre-cooked or processed foods) is a bench mark for optimum flavor. If one were to consume an item well past the optimum date, the flavor profile of the product would have changed markedly and would be incredibly bad for the producers image and affect future sales. IMO, regardless of the lack of clear laws, in some instances, it behooves the company to keep a viable product on the shelf.
re: hill food
One of our smaller local supermarkets has a comment on their web site (and I think they put a sign in the meat dept) that they tend to shorten up the date:
"Why are your fresh beef products always coded with a 'sell-by' date of only 1, 2, or 3 days? It always looks great, but I didn't want to chance it if I have to cook it right away."
I explained that we reduced the number of days on our sell-by dates to ensure a fresher product in our case. Fresher product in our case will give our customers another couple of days in their refrigerator. You don't have to cook it right away... and it will still be fresh when you want to prepare it. (We recommend no more than 2 or 3 days in your refrigerator)
Our store ground fresh ground beef will only have one day code because it needs to be used either the day it is purchased or the next.
To simply answer your questions above:
1. No, they should not be selling them, but for sure it was an oversight.
2. Yes, you should call and speak to the meat/butcher manager and tell them--if only so they know that customers are aware enough to do so.
No potential liability. Read this for some background as to why: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/LQ1E7... and focus on pages 6-7 of that opinion.
Plus, the stuff on the "manager's special" rack is almost always products on or past their "use by" date.
And, probably most importantly, it is completely safe to use and consume (ceteris peribus).
Seriously, you need to relax. Do you really think that on 12:01 a.m. on 03/10/09 the meat instantly becomes foul??? Whereas on 11:59 p.m. on 03/09/09 if you had grilled up that sausage you would be completely safe??
I just had this conversation ipsedixit! Instead of 'instantly' I used 'magically' and 'foul' I said 'rancid' (but you get the idea) - I'm of the opinion that shellfish and seafood in general are in a different league, but other meat has more wiggle room. I have gotten much more relaxed about this over the past 5 years, it took me a while but I've come around.
I've always pointed out to someone in the appropriate department when a past-date item is still on the rack. Most places remove these to the "reduced for quick sale" section so I assume it is an oversight and/or a failure to rotate stock. They can either take action or not, as they see fit. Most of this food is perfectly fine but I'd be annoyed if I bought something without noticing the date, put it away, and found when I went to use it a week later that it was by then spoiled. If for no other reason than to avoid complaints, the stores should be vigilent about removing past-dated foods.