Gross groceries: A Contact 6 hidden camera investigation

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — FOX6’s Contact 6 found “gross groceries” — food that should have been pulled from grocery store shelves, via a hidden camera investigation. You might blame the store, but Contact 6 says there’s something consumers should be doing to help make sure the freshest food is always available.

Contact 6’s hidden cameras found brand-name mayonnaise on a store shelf nearly four months after the “best when used by” date.

Contact 6 bought the mayo, and warned the clerk about other older items discovered, including crackers and sandwich spread.

The clerk said: “I appreciate that. I don’t want anyone to sue us.”

Contact 6 then showed the bottle of mayo to customers in the parking lot.

“Crackers I’d be a little more lenient on — but mayo? That’s not okay,” one customer said.

A FOX6 viewer didn’t think it was okay either when she found bread, donuts and a half rack of ribs past their dates. She sent in pictures, and asked that Contact 6 investigate.

Brandon Scholz is the CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, and says the dates consumers know as “expiration” dates are really estimations by the manufacturer about when the food is at its freshest and sometimes, food stays on store shelves a little longer than it should.

“It’s impossible to be 100 percent perfect. Is it commonplace? No, but it happens,” Scholz said.

Contact 6 visited 10 stores and found dated food at each of them — including things like milk, sliced roast beef, cheese, chicken fillets, apples, packaged donuts, Greek yogurt and crackers.

Contact 6 found two month old oatmeal and sandwich spread, packaged tuna nearly five months past the printed date and two dessert toppers — one four months past its date and another nearly a year past its “best before” date.

“I would never buy it.  I’d take it up to the service desk and say get that off the shelf,” one customer said.

Contact 6 also found the following old products: sour cream, meats, packaged ham, tomatoes, bologna and baby food.

Also — products with no date visible, or just a code that makes no sense to the average shopper.

Contact 6 showed Scholz two of the oldest items found on store shelves.

“You know, I bet most grocers would scratch their heads going ‘How did we miss that product?” Scholz said.

He says large grocery stores can have as many as 60,000 items on the shelves at any one time, and that’s why it’s up to the consumer to check the dates before purchasing.

“Consumers really do need to pay a little bit of attention because there are times, unfortunately,  when products will be on the shelves past those dates,” Scholz said.

Consumers generally use the term” expiration date,” but Scholz says that term is really not accurate. He says food past the date printed on the label is likely still good, but if consumers do spot something that seems old, it is advised they take it off the shelf and to the customer service counter.

Items can also be returned to the store if a consumer realizes the product is old after getting home. Most stores will refund money and/or exchange the product.

15 comments

  • Carol Searing Wood

    I always look at the dates. The Walmart Neighborhood Market on 70th and Main in West Allis has out dated foods. A few times I was buying yogurt. There were some outdated by more than a few days or a week. Maybe packaged item like cookies or something might be ok after the date. But not perishable stuff like yogurt.

  • Dawn M Shelley Buerger

    I once bought Oreo cookies 2 years expired (from Walmart)!!! After I realized that they tasted funny is when I looked at the expiration date, Walmart did refund my money, but blamed it on the distributor. I usually always check dates because I always find out dated food, shoppers need to be consistent on this because the dangers are out there!

    • Danielle

      That is silly of them to try and pass blame. It it virtually impossible for a shippment to have two year old product from a factory standpoint. And recieving watches the dates when it comes in to be certain they get good product. Either way Walmart failed spectacularly on that when they put it on the shelf.

  • Bryan

    You can find “expired” stuff in any grocery store in the country. Rotating product is a slow process. In the retail world, stocking has to be done quickly. Most stores have a program to audit sections of the store to ensure proper rotation. It goes without saying that the more obscure the product, the more likely that it will be “expired.”

  • Ed Bangs, Jr

    I think, generally, this hole discussion is a tempest in a teapot. One should let their nose & tongue tell them if food is no longer healthy. Canned food can live for ever…milk has to be watched a bit more carefully.

  • Danielle

    Ill never forget going to 84th and bluemound pick n save to get a kids cuisine over 2 years after expiration! Then the boss acted as if I were lying, put me on hold, then apologized by trying to give me a $5 gift card. No thank you.

  • CJ

    I believe the investigation would have been credible if the ‘FOX 6 viewer’ would have been interviewed. However, word is out in the community that the station, who Walmart sponsors, would have been seen as taking sides from someone who was let go from Walmart.
    My question for Katrina Cravy and FOX 6 is; “When does truth and evidence mean taking a side?”

  • joe daly

    come people, why is people going after Wal-Mart only? Pretty funny as a formal sales person. When they reset the store they could have put the stuff back on the shelves. But people do you guys notice about half of the grocery stuff they get in is stock by the company that makes it.

    Wal-Mart has nothing to do with it they don’t restock the shelves when the are empty or front them.

    They just did a study on your own home from a big New York Tv station, they threw out over a huge garbage can full of stuff from there house. From the bathroom to the kitchen. So go threw your own house to see how safe your stuff is before you make a comment about somebody else I bet your making your kids sick right now.

    Also you can go to bargain stores and buy outdated stuff for about quarter the price. Some of the stuff is as much as 2 years outdated. The stuff will not kill. Also when it comes to cheese longer it ages better it gets.

    So if you don’t like Wal-Mart don’t shop there go somewhere elese and pay double the price for the same thing. But remember Sam Walton was a small guy at one time also like your neighbor hood store. But her knew how to reinvest his money.

  • Lisa Derrick

    I was just at Pick n save on west sunset in waukesha last night and bought a thing of bronshager liver woshed and got it home took it out of the bag to put t away and it was turning grey on the ends looked at the experation date on it and it should have been pulled off the shelves on Nov. 1, 2013. I honesty think they should pay someone to go into these stores and look at everything on the selves. the store was called by my husband andthey are refunding us and said they were going to remove all the outdated off the shelf.

  • Karen Gibbs

    This is because these greedy stores are to cheap to hire stock people to rotate the shelves.I never see more than two stock people at Pick n Save.Also the higher the price on the item the longer the item will remain on the shelf.That is why we shop Aldi’s because that food is so reasonable it circulates constantly.Walmart has jacked their prices so high you would think they would be able to hire more than 3 cashiers for their 22 lane stone.Also people every time you use a self checkout you are putting people out of work.Think about it.

  • Gopro Accessories

    From the bathroom to the kitchen. So go threw your own house to see how safe your stuff is before you make a comment about somebody else I bet your making your kids sick right now.

    Also you can go to bargain stores and buy outdated stuff for about quarter the price. Some of the stuff is as much as 2 years outdated. The stuff will not kill. Also when it comes to cheese longer it ages better it gets.

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