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  • *Updated* It’s Not Illegal to Sell Expired Food

    Update: It turns out I was reading the date code on the Nestle Pure Life wrong, so I apologize to Rite Aid for stating they were selling expired water since it wasn’t expired. However, the point of this post stands – it’s not illegal to sell expired food in California, and there’s little incentive for businesses to remove expired food from shelves and write off the loss.

    I stopped by a Rite Aid store today to pick up two 24-packs of Nestle Pure Life water. They’re on sale for $3.50, and you get a $1 +UP reward when you buy 2. I’ve been looking for a good deal on bottles this size to add to our stash of emergency supplies, so I was excited about this deal.

    But when I got to Rite Aid and checked the expiration code on the package, it said July 31, 2011.

    I don’t like that particular store much and am not friendly with the staff, plus I was in a bit of a rush so I just left without buying anything. But when I got home, I decided to find out what agency such violations are reported to. And so I discovered that there’s no violation at all. Apparently there’s no law in California that prohibits the sale of expired food items.

    If you play The Drugstore Game, you might recall that CVS agreed to pay $2 for every expired product found on its shelves, but the legal theory was not that they had violated a law against selling expired food but that they had violated state law regarding false advertising and unfair business practices since consumers expect products on store shelves to be within the expiration date.

    I am considering a complaint to the state Attorney General’s Office to ask them investigate Rite Aid’s practices in the same way they investigated CVS’s practices. But the real bottom line is that consumers must watch out for themselves and check expiration dates. It’s a good habit to get into anyway.


    1. With all due respect, do you really think this is necessary? I mean, 1 – it’s WATER, it doesn’t expire. No one is going to get hurt if they drink it past the “freshness date”. 2 – those “dates” are just made up by the manufacturer, supposedly to ensure consumers get “fresh” product, but more likely just to encourage people to throw it out and buy new product. I think your energies would be much better spent encouraging manufacturers to not manipulate consumers and stores into wasting perfectly good food/beverages. IMHO this would fall squarely in the frivolous lawsuit category.

      • Chief Family Officer says:

        I understand your point, but I don’t believe the water is entirely bacteria-free – left long enough, it will “spoil” so to speak. That’s *my* personal opinion. Also, since this is for our emergency supply, it’s not something we plan to drink right away so I want it to be as fresh as possible because it will be stored for quite some time.

        • I don’t disagree with your choice not to buy the water. I just think if its that important to you, it would be more reasonable to let the store know that they lost some business and if they want you as a customer they need to put some effort into maintaining fresh inventory – if not at that exact moment then drop them an email when its convenient for you. I think that filing a formal complaint with the government is a bit of an overreaction. In the long wrong that just wastes government time and costs the store money, which results in them raising their prices for the rest of us. If they were doing something truly nefarious, like deliberately altering expiration dates on medicine, then you file a complaint.

          • Chief Family Officer says:

            Ah, I see. My issue is that I don’t think this is unusual for them. I’m actually not a habitual date checker, but I had a feeling that at this particular store, I really should.

    2. I have found expired medications, especially children’s medications, on the shelves at Rite Aid stores multiple times. I always take all of the packages that are expired up to the pharmacy and give them to someone there. I don’t know that they don’t just put them back on the shelf, but at least I did my part. It does really upset me that I could easily give my child expired medication if I am not vigilant when I buy something.

      • Chief Family Officer says:

        Wow, expired medication on the shelf is scary. I wonder if that *is* illegal. It should be, since my understanding is potency changes after the expiration date has passed.

    3. That’s funny you post this today.. I was just at Ralphs yesterday and saw a fresh chunk of mozzarella marked down to $1 .. I was thinking oooooo awesome! Then I saw it expired on 9/5 (of course they always cover that part up with the sticker) … and I was thinking … omg is that even legal to sell expired food… lol.. guess so.

      oh and I didn’t buy the mozzarella :-/

      • Chief Family Officer says:

        So that would make it . . . 3 days expired? Shouldn’t it at least have been close to free?

        Even if it’s not illegal to sell expired food, I wish there was more of an incentive for stores to *not* sell them.

        • yeah.. ugh I dunno.. I once bought almost (like about a week out) expired string cheese and it was sour and omg.. just really bad … so since then I’ve been real weird about cheese ….