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These days, most food products we buy are produced or packaged by a company that stamps on the food items a “sell by,” “use by,” or “best by” date. These dates are solely managed by industry, with no federal or state laws setting the length of time between when a food can be produced and/or packaged and the date placed on the package. These dates are not necessarily linked to the time by which the food must be eaten in order to be safe, according to a recent Harvard University study (September, 2013).

According to the National Resources Defense Council, as much as 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten due to the confusion of package markings. That’s $165 billion worth of food each year. Thus, salvage grocery stores have sprung up, selling foods past their expiration dates throughout the United States.

Salvage grocery stores, also known as surplus grocery stores, are known for near-expired goods, slightly dented cans, and “closeouts”, thus serving a grocery-shopping market hungry for low prices. According to Kevin Tibbles, an NBC reporter, salvage grocery stores can save you as much as 30-50 percent on your food bill.

Their inventory may consist of the following:
• overstocked items
• slightly damaged, bent, dented, ripped or torn packages or cans
• mislabeled or old labeled items
• items not selling well in regular chain stores and returned to warehouse
• near or at their sell-by or best-used-by dates

Prices tend to be significantly lower than those at conventional stores and big discount stores.

Similar to items sold at food auctions, products sold at surplus grocery stores are guaranteed by the USDA, stating that such items pose no safety hazard or poisoning threat. Excluded from this list is baby food and formula. The sell by dates refer to a product’s freshness, not its safety.

You can save hundreds of dollars and make the money you spend last longer by knowing the real shelf life of the foods you eat. Utilize the website http://stilltasty.com, search the section called “Keep it or Toss it” to determine the real shelf-life of the food, based on information from the USDA, the FDA and CDC.

A trip to the salvage grocery is more like a treasure hunt — what’s available one week may not be the next time around.
Resources/References
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/foodpolicyinitiative/food-policy-initiative-projects/current-projects/reducing-food-waste/

http://stilltasty.com/
Salvage’ Grocery Stores Offer Wall-To-Wall Discounts – October 22, 2013 10:08 PM – http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/10/22/salvage-grocery-stores-offers-wall-to-wall-discounts/

Food waste in America: A multi-billion-dollar loss – By GRANT GERLOCK and KRISTOFOR HUSTED Harvest Public Media 09/23/2014 12:05 PM http://www.kansascity.com/news/business/article2210462.html#storylink=cpy

Written by: Cynthia R. Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA
Reviewed by: Elizabeth Smith, Program Specialist, OSU Extension – Human Ecology Extension Administration

Reviewed by: Kim Barnhart, Office Associate, OSU Extension, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA

Jennifer Lindimore, Office Associate, OSU Extension, Morgan County, Buckeye Hills EERA

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clients on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information: go.osu.edu/cfaesdiversity

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