Not long ago, one of my blog readers wrote to tell me about some frozen meatballs she purchased at Dominick’s. She made them for her family, but when they sat down and began eating, everyone commented on how terrible they tasted — “like plastic.” They didn’t finish their dinner, and she scoured the bag for an expiration date. Finding none, she called the manufacturer the next day. After reading a production code stamped into the bag, the manufacturer informed her that the meatballs had expired in 2007, and they “absolutely should not have been eaten” past that date.
While there are no laws in Illinois against selling expired food (unless it is baby formula or baby food,) the fact is that expired food at Dominick’s is a rampant problem throughout many of their suburban stores. Nearly every day I read and hear stories of people buying expired products at Dominick’s because they forgot to check the dates. I, and many other Dominick’s shoppers, have been patiently trying to bring this issue to Dominick’s corporate’s attention for over a year. But after this reader shared her story with me, I couldn’t stop thinking what might have happened to her if she or her family had gotten severely sick from eating meat that expired four years ago.
After hearing her story, I suggested she and I go back to her local Dominick’s store (2411 Randall Road, Carpentersville, IL) and see if we could find other expired products on the shelves. The reader’s best friend joined us, as she has also had problems with expired food at the Carpentersville location.
As we met at the store and talked, all three of us shared stories of having accidentally brought home one or two expired products from our local Dominick’s stores more often than seemingly should be the case — but when you’re in a hurry and not taking the time to watch the dates, it seems to happen pretty frequently. What would happen when we actually began looking for expired products?
We intended to walk all of the food aisles and see what we found. We wondered if we’d fill up an entire shopping cart.
Instead, we filled three.
The three of us walked the aisles at the Carpentersville Dominick’s, documenting everything we found. It added up to 425 expired food products in two hours. That works out to more than seven expired products found for every two minutes spent in the store.
Incredible. We knew Dominick’s expired food problem was bad, but this bad?
Please keep in mind that we did not even make it through the whole store, only covering about four aisles. We did not make it to the bread aisle, the pop aisle, the dairy cases, the frozen cases, refrigerated meats or seafood, nor did we look at any drugstore-type products (personal care, medicine, and the like.) We only went through some of the packaged, bottled and canned food aisles.
Yet, we spent two hours in the store and filled three shopping carts with expired food. And some of it was very, very expired:
We carried a copy of the day’s newspaper with us (February 10th, 2011) as proof of the date that these photos were taken. Click the photos to view the full-size, high-res photographs.
Two bottles of Bertolli Olive Oil, dated 2/28/09:
Twenty cartons of Kikkoman Soy milk, with expiration dates ranging from 12/11/10 to 1/29/11:
Fourteen boxes of Hamburger Helper, with dates ranging from 3/31/10 to 9/30/10:
Two bottles of Safeway Olive Oil, dated 8/28/09:
And, the oldest product we found… two cans of Clabber Girl Baking Powder with an expiration date of May, 2008:
(The third can at left expired in November, 2010.)
The three of us were absolutely floored by what we had found. And remember, we only made it through about four aisles of the store. After devoting two hours to this and filling three carts, we were pretty certain that if we each got new carts and continued through the store, we’d find more of the same.
Watch a video with additional expired products found during this trip:
(Update: My ENTIRE YouTube channel was deleted after I posted videos of Dominick’s expired food — I lost all of the videos I created from 2008 until now. I can only suspect the long arm of a certain legal team had my entire SuperCouponing YouTube channel shut down, which is extremely upsetting. YouTube has not responded to my repeated requests to restore my channel.)
Why aren’t stores clearing expired inventory off the shelves, especially when there is so much of it? Why aren’t any store employees walking the aisles to notice that the first jars of applesauce a shopper would pick up, on the front edge of the shelf, expired in August of 2010?
Dominick’s shoppers on Facebook have been extremely vocal about the expired food problem in many locations around Chicagoland, and yet expired foods just sit, stagnating on the shelves. Shoppers on Dominick’s own Facebook page have posted many other Dominick’s locations where one would likely find similar results. I also imagine that many of these manufacturers would be interested to learn how long some of their products have been sitting on Dominick’s shelves. Who is liable if someone gets ill from eating Hormel beef that expired in May of 2009?
Here’s the full list of 425 expired products we found on 2/10/11 at this Dominick’s location. As you look through it, note that this isn’t necessarily a case of “one or two” forgotten products on the back of a shelf. 26 identical bags of rice cakes? 14 boxes of organic children’s pasta? In the case of the Kool-Aid Fun Fizz all 64 packages on the shelf expired in November of 2010. And yes, there’s expired baby food on the list too, which is the only category with federal regulations not to be sold after the date.
|Clabber Girl Baking Powder||5/1/08||2|
|Bertolli Olive Oil||2/28/09||2|
|Hormel Dried Beef||5/7/09||4|
|Safeway 500ml Olive Oil||8/28/09||2|
|Amore Anchovy Paste||3/1/10||12|
|Safeway Ranch Dressing Mix (boxed)||3/10/10||6|
|Hamburger Helper – Italian Sausage||3/31/10||1|
|A1 Black Peppercorn Steak Sauce||5/18/10||8|
|Hamburger Helper – Italian Sausage||5/23/10||2|
|Hamburger Helper – Italian Sausage||5/31/10||1|
|Near East Couscous||6/11/10||2|
|Girard’s Champagne salad dressing||6/25/10||9|
|Near East Chicken Provencal Gourmet Meal kits||7/5/10||6|
|Near East Mediterranean Herb Gourmet Meal kits||7/5/10||9|
|Citrus Champagne salad vinegar||7/9/10||1|
|Crosse & Blackwell Zesty Remoulade||7/16/10||1|
|Safeway Gravenstein Applesauce||8/3/10||4|
|Kern’s Guava Nectar||8/26/10||4|
|Hamburger Helper – 4 Cheese Lasagna||9/28/10||2|
|Hamburger Helper – 4 Cheese Lasagna||9/28/10||3|
|Hamburger Helper – 3 Cheese||9/30/10||5|
|Safeway Select Pretzels||9/30/10||2|
|Girard’s Raspberry salad dressing||10/1/10||3|
|Quaker Quakes rice cakes||10/10/10||26|
|Quaker Chewy Granola Bars||10/11/10||9|
|Annie’s Organic Bunny Pasta with Yummy Cheese||10/15/10||14|
|Betty Crocker cake mixes (on an endcap for current sale)||10/17/10||2|
|Safeway Select Pretzels||10/28/10||2|
|Betty Crocker cake mixes (on an endcap for current sale)||10/29/10||1|
|Clabber Girl Baking Powder||11/1/10||1|
|Nature’s Path Organic toaster tarts||11/3/10||4|
|Quaker True Delights||11/15/10||2|
|O Organics Green and Herbal tea bags||11/17/10||10|
|Safeway Chocolate Artificially Flavored Milk Mix 30oz.||11/21/10||1|
|Kool-Aid Fun Fizz tablets||11/30/10||64|
|Safeway Orange Marmalade||11/30/10||5|
|Safeway Shelled Walnuts||12/3/10||4|
|Cary’s Sugar-Free Syrup||12/8/10||1|
|Michele’s Maple Crème Syrup||12/10/10||5|
|Safeway Iced Tea Lite||12/10/10||2|
|Safeway Mint Jelly||12/10/10||5|
|Safeway Select Extra-Virgin Olive Oil||12/10/10||4|
|Kikkoman Pearl Soy Milk||12/11/10||8|
|Safeway Mandarin Oranges||12/11/10||2|
|Safeway Mandarin Oranges||12/14/10||2|
|Safeway Select Extra-Virgin Olive Oil||12/17/10||2|
|Annie’s Organic Canned “Arthur” kids’ pasta||12/18/10||7|
|Keebler Pepper-Jack Cheese crackers||12/25/10||8|
|Safeway Select Extra-Virgin Olive Oil||12/26/10||2|
|Kraft Italian Viniagrette salad dressing||1/4/11||4|
|Planter’s canned nuts||1/7/11||1|
|Murray’s Sugar Free Cookies (vanilla)||1/8/11||4|
|Safeway Lite Butter Microwave Popcorn||1/8/11||1|
|Blue Diamond Hazelnut Thins||1/10/11||3|
|Gerber Whole Wheat baby cereal||1/10/11||2|
|Barnum’s Animal Crackers Snak-Saks||1/11/11||12|
|Café Gluten-Free bars||1/11/11||27|
|Eating Right Pomegranate Cranberry and Mango juices||1/11/11||9|
|Kraft Light Ranch dressing||1/13/11||2|
|Good Earth tea bags||1/14/11||1|
|Almond Breeze almond milk||1/15/11||7|
|Cheerios 1.1oz. Canisters (baby aisle)||1/17/11||7|
|Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers||1/27/11||1|
|Kikkoman Pearl Soy Milk||1/29/11||12|
|Safeway Whipped Dressing (mayonnaise)||1/30/11||9|
|Annie’s Organic Snack Bunnies snack mix||1/31/11||1|
|Beech-Nut Baby Cereal||2/1/11||2|
|Gerber Smart Nourish baby food cups (peas, beans)||2/1/11||3|
|Safeway Shelled Pecans||2/3/11||5|
|Lance cheese & crackers||2/4/11||2|
|Girard’s Caesar salad dressing||2/5/11||2|
|Safeway Bold steak sauce||2/7/11||11|
|Safeway Olive Oil & Balsamic salad dressing||2/7/11||6|
|Betty Crocker frosting||2/8/11||1|
|Safeway Italian Dressing||2/9/11||2|
Before we went inside, we noted that there are no signs or notices posted anywhere at the Carpentersville Dominick’s location that prohibit photography or videography in the store. I believe, to the best of my ability, that I have documented what we found as truthfully and factually as possible.
In one of the photos, several bottles of VitaminWater are visible near the cart basket. These were not expired and were purchased by one of my readers (yes, we did all buy something during this shopping trip. I purchased some greeting cards and the copy of the Daily Herald seen in these photos.)
Since this trip:
My reader went back to do her grocery shopping on Sunday, 2/13 (yes, she is still shopping at this Dominick’s!) An employee who was in the store when we presented the expired carts on Thursday night came over and apologized for the amount of expired product we had found on the shelves. He told the reader, “They really don’t want this to end up on the blogs.” She told him that she herself did not have a blog, but anyone who reads any local coupon blog, or Dominick’s own Facebook page, already knows how bad the problem is with expired food on the shelves at Dominick’s. The employee then said to her, “You want to see expired? You should go to Lake in the Hills!”
Guess where we headed next. Continue reading Part Two of this story.