*Story updated below with official comment from D'Artagnan on relabeling of its expired products*
You know those nifty "sell-by" tags on food that seem like they're there for your safety and to separate our 21st Century grocery stores from, say, medieval street fairs? Well, it turns out they're not for you. Evidently, they're for the convenience of the store owner, according to this unsettling report in the Brooklyn Paper.
An angry customer of a Brooklyn Heights Key Food pointed out that store store placed a newer "sell-by" tag over an expired, 11-day old one on a (spoiled) D'Artagnan chicken.
If that wasn't unsettling enough, state officials at New York's Department of Agriculture and Markets seem pretty lax about the whole thing:
"'Sell by' dates are nothing but a tool for store managers," said Jessica Ziehm, spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture and Markets that inspected the Key Food after Viljoen's claims. "It's not illegal to re-date or re-package, though they're still required to sell safe, wholesome products. We went there and found no problems."
Ziehm said the department followed up on Viljoen's May 13 claim mainly because her chicken had spoiled -- but inspectors couldn't find any "critical deficiencies" in the store's practices at that time.
Other angry Key Foods customers have come out of the woodwork. One customer posted a comical-if-it-wasn't-criminal picture of a package labeled "Fresh Octopus" that clearly contained imitation crab meat, and perhaps more.
UPDATE, 6/3/2010, 2:22pm: Reached for comment, D'Artagnan spokesperson Lily Hodge said:
"When made aware of the situation we immediately contacted the store in question. The very reason D'Artagnan puts dates on products in the first place is to preempt such practices."