Grocery Stores Auction Off Old Food
Expired, damaged groceries sold to the highest bidder.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: August 27th, 2012
Expiration dates are handed down from the USDA, which encourages (but doesn't require) manufacturers to print the dates on packaging.
roceries are pretty expensive—it seems every week when we do our weekly shopping, we spend way more than we want to and don't get much in return. But now, some grocery stores are exploring a way to offer savings to their customers while at the same time saving themselves from losing money. How? Why, by auctioning off expired or damaged foods, of course.
It's not nearly as gross as it initially sounds, though. Every year, U.S. grocers waste $10 to $15 billion in unsold products—foods that are damaged, discontinued, seasonal, or just near their expiration date. So some stores have paired up with auction houses to sell off product at bargain prices—chicken at just over a dollar a pound or granola cereal for $1.50 (which is a steal, as it's usually upwards of $5 per box).
It's not illegal to sell most expired food, but thanks to those printed numbers on packaging, most Americans live and die by those sell-by dates and feel a bit squeamish buying "old" food. But what most people don't know is that those expiration dates are handed down by the USDA, which encourages manufacturers to put those dates on the packages. Thing is, the dates only indicate quality, not safety. For example, if you buy yogurt and eat it four or five days after the sell-by date, chances are you won't get sick. The only food that dates are required to be printed on is baby formula.
And those dates can cause massive losses for supermarkets, which often pull items when they're near the expiration date, rather than once they hit the expiration date—the logic being that they want customers to always buy the "freshest" foods, rather than buy "almost too old to sell" food.
People that attend grocery auctions seem to like it, too. "I can tell you we've been coming a long time; I've never gotten anything bad," says Dave Ring, a grocery-auction veteran. He says he doesn't put too much stock into expiration dates.
And as for the safety? One chemist tested samples of the auctioned food for bacteria and found, unsurprisingly, that there was nothing scary in the old food.
Would you buy groceries from a grocery auction?