NBC12 INVESTIGATES: Expired foods for sale

By Jennifer Warnick - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - How closely do you look at expiration dates when you're in the grocery store? The numbers are small, but they serve a big purpose. You may need to depend on your own eyes to ensure your food is up to date.

Joe Nathan Barnes knows good home cooking. It's a passion he's perfected over 73 years. In October, he prepared a fine feast for a friend.

"I got lobsters, baby asparagus, baked potato," Joe said.

But when it came time for the final fixing's, Joe was horrified when he peeled back the foil on his sour cream.

"A big glob of green, just a big ole hunk of green," he said.

He checked the side of the container. The expiration date was Monday, October 3rd - two days before he bought it. He immediately called the store, but that got him nowhere.

His next move was to contact the Department of Agriculture. It's their job to inspect anyplace that makes stores or sells food in Virginia. They say the two things you cannot sell past the expiration date are baby formula and dairy products.

"They are to be pulled from sale," said Pam Miles with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

When they get a complaint, inspectors go to the store, validate the claim and speak with the management. Then the expired items get pulled from sale.

"We give them a chance to fix it," Miles said.

And that's exactly what happened here. A week after Joe complained inspectors visited the community supermarket in Southside Plaza. According to the department's report, this store's shelves sported ten cans of infant formula past expiration, which was pulled from sale immediately.

The inspector then hit the dairy section. They found another sour cream that was 9 days past its date. Managers assured the inspector that the store's policy was in line with the law.

It's been two weeks since Joe bought moldy sour cream and one week since the inspection, so we went back to see if everything had been fixed.

In five minutes, we found six products in the dairy section that should've been removed. Eggs, 5 days past the expiration date, French onion dip was 6, this yogurt drink is almost 2 weeks overdue and it only gets worse. Block cheese 19 days past its date, more than three weeks ago this cottage cheese should have been pulled and the worst was this shredded cheese-it should've been yanked 35 days before.

So how could this happen if inspectors were just there? We brought our findings back to Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and they say, based on our findings, the case is going to be reopened. Therefore, no more details concerning the case can be released.

The Department of Agriculture does have the authority to close down a non-complying store, but hasn't had to do so in the past. The manager of community supermarket tells us the dairy manager was new to the job and they're working to make sure all the foods are pulled according to date.

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