If it’s expired, why is it still on the retail shelf?

We’ve only just started analyzing all the data that my class collected last fall pertaining to food waste at the retail level. One of the obvious things is that people avoid food that is close to the “best buy” date. Remember, those best buy dates are largely a scam to get people to throw out what they have and buy more. What was surprising though is that at the retail level there’s no systematic tracking of what products have which best buy dates. Unless someone physically catalogues it (and that’s unlikely when a grocery store contains over 30,000 items), there’s no way of knowing that this yogurt has a day until it’s best buy date. Using barcodes and membership cards, grocery stores can track how much of an item they have, when it was sold, how much it was sold for, and in some cases who bought it. However, information on the expiration date is not in the bar code (some would falsely claim that it is). What happens is that food which consumers are unlikely to buy are then unsold and ultimately discarded. If there was a way to track expiration dates of products on the shelf then the grocer can use discounting techniques or even heighten donations before the perceived self implosion date.

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