Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Re-dating chickens' sell by date is legal

The chicken incident was repeated at the end of last week, when I went to see what was in the poultry case at Key Food. Just curious to see what their labels would say two weeks later.

Incredibly, I discovered that the date-switcheroo had been repeated!

Store label on top of the organic chicken, above. Producer's label below. Most of the original labels had been torn off, this one had been left on.

But: According to the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets, a store can, at its discretion re-label a sell by date on perishable food. This from Andy Campbell, the reporter investigating the chicken incident for the Brooklyn Paper, here.

"At its discretion."

Key Food on Atlantic's discretion was to re-label one chicken's sell by to 11 days after the original sell by date. The chicken above was re-labeled by 8 days.

Define discretion.

It's the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets that has some 'splaining to do. When they wrote to me about Chicken #1 they said they found no evidence on site (the D'Artagnan chickens in question were not in stock when they visited) of tampered-with sell by dates. That would imply that it did not condone such behaviour...

So which is it?

The Huffington Post version of the story is getting attention.

[6-7-10:Here is PETA's vegan-angle take on it]


I have written to the Department in Albany, asking them to explain what 'discretion' means. Also who - in a store - makes the call on whether perishable meat is still safe for consumption, and how it is done...

And why, if a sell by date is not intended for the customer, why it is visible at all?

It all seems to be an elaborate, bureaucratic hoax.


  1. Let's hope that putting their business in the streets - the paper - will cause some better behavior. Unfortunately, one doubts it.

  2. You'll remember this little to-do down here in NC:

    And reading my local blogs, they still have a problem with cleanliness.

    I refuse to shop at Food Lion even though it is the closest (less than 1/2 to me). I'd rather spend my dollars at my local organic food store even though it is more expensive. My fear of salmonella, e. coli, etc. is greater than my need to save.

  3. Karen thanks for the link. A little chilling that they were initially awarded damages.

    I was cheered when I first saw the organic chickens at the Key Food, as I'd been asking for them for some time. I bought organic milk, eggs and butter there, apparently 'safe' items.

  4. I remember the Food Lion case: I believe it was remixing old ground beef into some new ground beef, at least that's my memory of it.

    Marie, I think it's good you push. Have you confronted the store?

    Instead of changing expiration dates, what they should do: reduce the price and explain on a separate label that this is untainted meat that has passed its somewhat arbitrary expiration date. Try to resell and if not, destroy after 2 or 3 days. Anyway, that seems better than lying. And if your gonna lie, fully remove the evidence.

    Ha, I'm watching Food inc tonight.

  5. This is a story that continues to beggar belief. But I think I may try to find out what the rules are here in the UK - food scares and scandals are just about an everyday occurrence here.

    I can remember a Director of Public Health remarking at yet another buffet lunch that the main cause of food poisoning was chicken.... especially kept warm under lights for a buffet lunch.

  6. So, their disgression could be 5 days or 25 days? You have got to be kidding! At least TELL me that you have changed the date and let ME decide if I am willing to buy the product or not.

    Interesting that the tare weight is right on the label. Never saw that before. Makes the whole label seem kinda' wonkey! What it says is "We don't care if the chicken is bad or not but we will tell you how much the packaging weighs." Almost laughable!

  7. those f'in f*ckers. what about a little transparency? a little honesty? or just roasting them by their sell by date and still making their money.

    also, you are all set to be the best community organizer this brooklyn has seen. for serious.


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