Whenever we need food, we know that our favorite grocery store will have a plethora of options. At any given time, grocery stores are filled with shelves stocked with canned food as far as the eye can see, rows of fresh produce, and so much more. Nonetheless, all food will expire at some point, leaving us to wonder, “What do grocery stores do with expired food?”
In the sections that follow, we’ll look at how grocery stores and supermarkets handle expired food. As you’ll soon discover, most supermarkets make every effort to avoid wasting any of that food and only throw it away as a last resort.
Grocery stores do things with expired food
To avoid waste, grocery stores may offer significant discounts on items that are about to expire. In addition, grocery stores donate them to soup kitchens and food banks to help the less fortunate. Unpackaged food may also be discarded on farms and used as animal feed. Of course, some of that expired food will still end up in the trash.
Contrary to popular belief, grocery stores closely monitor the expiration dates of their products. That’s why, when they know some items are about to expire, they usually run quick sales with steep discounts! In this way, the store tries to make those products more appealing to buyers before they expire.
Many grocery stores and supermarkets even have clearance sections where they stock all of these items to make it easier for customers to find them.
However, the concept of selling items that are about to expire isn’t limited to packaged goods. Fresh produce and bread are frequently sold at much lower prices as they lose their freshness.
As previously stated, offering steep discounts on items that are about to expire is a common practice, particularly when it comes to baked goods. You can take advantage of this every day by purchasing bread, pastries, and even pizzas at night.
Instead of throwing them away, shops frequently run ‘happy hour’ type promotions where baked goods are sometimes even 50% off. So, if you enjoy eating baked goods, that’s an absolute steal!
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Donate to food banks and soup kitchens
One of the most popular options for grocery stores when it comes to food that has already passed its expiration date is to donate it directly to soup kitchens and food banks. Local grocery stores frequently form strategic alliances with these organizations to ensure that their food reaches those in greatest need. This could include the poor, homeless, and anyone else living in shelters in the city.
Community partnerships between grocery stores and local charitable organizations help to reduce waste while also assisting the needy. The grocery store may arrange for the expired food to be delivered directly to the organizations using their company vehicles. The organizations may even pick up the items on their own.
Here’s an important lesson you can apply at home. Packaged foods, such as those in cans, are safe to eat even after their expiration date.
As long as the cans are in good condition, with no dents, leaks, or mold, the food inside can be eaten for years after the expiration date!
It is sometimes required by law to donate expired food to charities.
Grocery stores and supermarkets are required by law in some areas to donate expired food to charitable organizations rather than throwing it out.
France is an excellent example. Since 2016, large grocery stores and supermarkets have been prohibited from throwing out expired food. Instead, these businesses must donate them to local charities in order to assist those in need.
As a result of such laws in France and other parts of the world, grocery stores and supermarkets have developed and refined their standard operating procedures to prevent expired food from going to waste.
Farm waste disposal
Even after the expiration date has passed, packaged food is usually safe to eat. The same cannot be said for fresh and unpackaged items such as fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and fish.
Working with nearby farms is another option for some grocery stores for these types of expired food items. These items can be used as animal feed for pigs, chickens, and any other animals that live on the farm.
Pigs, for example, are likely the least picky eaters among farm animals. Farmers can feed their animals by combining expired food with existing feed. Farmers, grocery stores, and animals are all pleased, making this a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.
Of course, this isn’t an option in every location, and distance can be a significant barrier.
Because of this, some grocery stores may be far away from farms that accept expired food. Because of the long-distance, transportation costs would be much higher, making donating expired food prohibitively expensive.
In situations like this, the grocery store may have no choice but to throw the food away.
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Throw away in the garbage
Nobody, not even grocery stores, likes to waste expired food. Unfortunately, there are many instances where this is simply unavoidable.
Even in the largest cities, some grocery stores find it difficult to sell expired food at a steep discount. Furthermore, giving it away to charities or farms may be impossible or prohibitively expensive.
When all other options have been exhausted, the only thing a grocery store can do is throw the food away.
As unfortunate as this may sound, there is a silver lining to it all. Grocery stores keep track of which products they are forced to discard in order to better plan for the future.
For example, suppose they know that a particular food product does not sell well, even when they offer a discount on it. They’ll know to order less of it in the future if that happens. By learning from this, retailers can stock their shelves with items that sell well and reduce overall waste.
The problem of dealing with expired food does not have a simple solution. As a result, people frequently have many questions about why grocery stores handle expired foods in specific ways.
Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions.
- Why Aren’t Grocery Stores Able to Sell Expired Food?
In general, grocery stores refuse to sell food items that have passed their expiration date, even if the food inside is still safe to eat.
First and foremost, there is the issue of liability. Assume a grocery store sells an expired food item on purpose, resulting in food poisoning. In that case, the store may be held legally liable and sued as a result.
Aside from that, it is frequently against the law to sell expired food, regardless of the condition of the food items in the packaging.
To avoid being sued or receiving hefty fines, grocery stores are required under all circumstances not to sell expired food.
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- Why do grocery stores discard expired goods?
If they have no other choice, grocery stores will still throw away expired items.
Giving it to charity is not always possible. It’s possible that there are no soup kitchens, shelters, or other charitable organizations nearby. When the nearest charities are too far away, transporting the expired food items to them may become prohibitively expensive, rendering the entire effort ineffective.
Aside from that, some grocery stores may choose to avoid even the least possibility of being sued. Their concern may be that if a charity distributed the expired food and someone became ill as a result of eating it, the grocery store could be held liable.
To avoid any problems, the ‘safest’ option in their opinion may be to throw away the expired food items simply.
- Is it okay to consume expired packaged food?
Yes! As previously stated, you can consume packaged food even after it has passed its expiration date. Of course, this is dependent on the packaging’s condition. Dented cans, as well as those with leaks or mold growing on them, should not be consumed.
Items that are still in perfectly preserved cans, on the other hand, can be eaten for many years after their expiration date.
- Is it illegal for grocery stores to throw out expired items?
Yes! Throwing away expired food is illegal in many parts of the world. Instead, grocery stores, such as those in France, are legally required to donate food that cannot be sold.
- How much expired food is discarded?
Every year, 40% of food produced in the United States goes uneaten, resulting in 160 billion pounds of food waste in our landfills.
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In summary, this post has answered the question “What do grocery stores do with expired food?”
Food waste is a worldwide issue. When it comes to grocery stores and supermarkets, however, most are responsible enough to avoid wasting expired food. Some may try to sell it as best they can, but if that fails, they may donate it to charities or nearby farms.
Only when all other options have been exhausted do they resort to discarding those items and ordering fewer of them in the future.