Always Check the (Sometimes Sketchy) Expiration Dates on Food

This is a friendly Consumerist reminder: always make sure you check the expiration dates on all of your food purchases, especially as alternative expiration ‘Codes’ confuse the employees checking for spoilage.

Insider E writes about confusion regarding the new (and seemingly overcomplicated) expiration ‘codes’.

I work in a retail store with a pretty healthy-sized food section. It isn’t a grocery, so that may be the problem. My big issue right now is the codes that a lot of food companies seem to be using instead of just printing an expiration date. Instead of 040510 (April 5, 2010) I see a lot of codes like 29B1348032, where 032 will be the processing plant code, 134 will be the Julian Date (134th day of the year), 8 will stand for 2008 and 29B is supposed to be ignored. Or even the dreaded “Produced On” date, where it gives a code for the date it was made on and then we have to figure the expiration date out of that. We have a huge book full of decoders for these products.

We recently got a new food-department supervisor, so a pretty thorough check of inventory was done and I had the opportunity/misfortune of being one of the team leaders checking dates. Here’s what I found:

(1.) Food manufacturers will change these codes frequently and not update the vendors.
(2.) Consumers cannot read these codes and, most importantly
(3.) Employees cannot read these codes.

We don’t have the training or the resources to determine if many of these products are out of date… therefore many of these products were ridiculously out of date (some by more than 2 years). As a result of the audit, I will not even consider purchasing food with a code instead of an expiration date. Maybe groceries have better lists than we do, but it seems like asking for trouble.

Have you ever encountered these archaic codes? If so, make sure you leave the address where we can all get our matching decoder rings.

Pic: [The Joy Of The Mundane]