Does selling expired food a good business practice?
Ask that question to grocery owners and you get almost a unanimous resounding response: Of course not! No business owner would agree with that fact. But,  the truth is: the very business groups that vehemently condemn such practices are the very ones that violate them. We all know from the last 2 articles I posted, that several well-known retailers have had involved in legal lawsuits and state penalties due to gross violations of food and health laws. So, we are left with one serious question: If those retailers had been repeatedly slapped with scores of penalties and charged with many lawsuits, why they still keep repeating the same mistake all over again? Here are some of the reasons:

  • Manufacturers and retailers have almost complete powers over how merchandise are sold. Federal Law has no strict regulations. What we have right now are general guidelines on food handling and labelling. Not all States agree or implement a unified health laws. In fact, only 20 out of 50 states have required food dating. Other than that, all dating and labelling are left in the hands of manufacturers and retailers. Look at some examples of unscrupulous retailers who sell or used to sell products past their labelling dates: CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Wholefoods, etc. Even if they have been repeatedly warned, fined, and slapped with lawsuits, and settlements, they still managed to sell expired foods and drugs.
  • Which brings us to the second reason: Crime of opportunity. This nobodys-watching-it-yet-so-lets-do-it attitude is an act that is committed when retailers have that opportunity and take advantage of it. Did you know that 7 out of 10 customers do not check at expiration labels when they are shopping? Customers do not really care about reading food labels, and normally do not report if there is an incidence, And because of that, some retailers take that situation and transform it into good money-making opportunities. The claim that retailers are not completely aware what is being sold on their sales floor is a complete LIE! The truth is: retailers are fully aware that there are expired food and drugs on their salesfloor and backrooms but they have to sell them anyway.
  • Economic reasons. Retailers know that expired products are becoming a liability, and therefore, they have to find ways and means to sell those “becoming liabilities” into “becoming assets.” Retailers think about expenses incurred (both labor, stocking fee, disposal and environment expenses, and potential profit losses from actual sales) when disposing of expired products from the sales floor. In these economic times, they want to avoid these instances as much as possible.
  • Retailers need to maximize merchandise shelf life. Most foods that past the Best Before, Best if Use by, Expired On, Best Until, etc. labels are still safe to eat. And retailers are aware of that fact. The quality of the food may not be at their optimum level but they are good and still safe to eat. Even your local health officer may categorically agree to this statement especially when there is no particular state law or local health ordinance that prohibits on the selling or banning of such absolescent products.

RGIS Inventory Blog: Expired Food: What retailers must do.