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New store plans to sell "expired" foods

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On most packaged foods you will find either a “sell by” or “best before” date stamped, which is taken by most consumers to mean that the product is no longer any good by and beyond that date. Many of these products, however, end up in discount bins where they are marked down a little. Are they still safe to use, though? Are customers risking illness by eating these “expired” items?

For decades there have been bakeries specializing in “day-old” goods, bread, cookies, cakes, snack foods, usually marked down by the commercial bakery where they were created. Seniors and others watching their budget find such baked goods not only a bargain but still of fine quality. Should other products, then, also be re-marketed in such ways? Are all foods equally viable when they reach the end of their listed shelf life?

The former president of the Trader Joe’s chain, Doug Rowe, plans to open a store that will sell food that would otherwise be discarded as being no longer sellable. According to an NBC news video (http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/54186865), a recent study claims that at least forty per cent of all food produced in the United States is thrown out per year. That amounts, the statistics report, to $165 billion worth of food that is wasted in this country annually. For a country that prides itself on its wealth, and yet has millions of people living below the poverty line, this is a scandal.

Mr. Rowe’s store, which he intends to open in June this year, will be selling fresh produce, dairy products, for a fraction of the original cost. It will be called “The Daily Table” and is scheduled to operate outside the Boston area, as a non-profit facility. Could others follow his lead, and open similar stores in different parts of the country? Will consumers who are unable to afford healthy food be leery nonetheless of such food, or will they take up the opportunity to access good nutrition at low cost?

Not all foods that are beyond their “best before” date are worthy of being discarded. Most of us keep even the freshest foods, after bringing them home, in our refrigerators or on pantry shelves for a while before using them. If properly stored, many such items are perfectly safe. It’s when instructions for food safety (like refrigeration after opening, or keeping the package sealed) are disregarded that spoilage often occurs. Illnesses such as salmonella, however, are frequently the result of poor sanitation practices during production.

Good luck to Doug Rowe and his efforts to not only reduce the immoral waste of food, but to enable low-income Americans to buy nutritious food, especially following the reduction of food stamps by the federal government. We need more people of initiative like him to solve such problems created by poor planning and marketing, as well as by the lack of compassion by the powers-that-be toward those who are affected by such actions.

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