Hunting for Expiration Dates

Why are they so well hidden?

Hello Friend,

I can only imagine how baffled the people monitoring the cameras in the grocery store security office might be at my behavior as I try to locate the all-elusive expiration dates on products. A good number of shoppers just pick up the first item in the front row and add it to their cart. Not me. I check the expiration dates on all perishables.

What the monitors might see is a woman in dairy acting in a strange manner. She picks up a tub of butter, turns it all around, looks at the lid, turns the container over, checks the bottom, then examines the entire circumference again before replacing it on the shelf.

In the milk case, she might look briefly at a couple of jugs before selecting one; the dates on milk are easily visible. The yogurt section is a different matter; the containers here require the same level of frustrating scrutiny as the tubs of butter.

The bread aisle presents a whole new way to test one’s eyesight and patience. There are times when I found myself acting like Rafiki presenting Simba in The Lion King, just trying to read what is printed on the bag. Usually, the small print is stamped over other labeling and is impossible to read, or creases in the bag make the printing too sloppy to decipher.

I am not so picky that I would not eat a food past its expiration date. If it smells good and tastes good, then it is good, is more the method I use. But it helps to have a guide, especially when you are shopping for just one or two people. Families with young members with hearty appetites might go through a loaf of bread, or a bag of chips in a day or two, so expiration dates may not matter that much to them. With less people using a product these dates become an essential guide, and this is especially true for the elderly. No one on a fixed, most likely not substantial income, wants to risk food spoilage.

I hope food manufacturers would recognize this and make the necessary changes. I have passed over purchasing many a food because I could not locate or read the expiration information. The brand names always stand out, and the nutrition information is well presented, but the same care is not given to expiration dates, an essential element in foods that have a short shelf life. Manufacturers should realize that dark on dark printing is not advisable in any situation, especially not on a cup of yogurt or other perishable foods.

The effort to add expiration dates is commendable, but the information is useless if one cannot read it. Since the boomer generation is a booming part of the supermarket scene and are most likely to rely on these dates, greater effort should be made to address the needs of this population.

I hope this issue comes to the attention of those who handle the labeling of perishable foods and they move to correct it.