For some time now I’ve noticed what appears to be a routine practice of some food retailers stocking their shelves with “short date” goods or, goods that will soon expire.
The most recent example of this is with Carnation Milk. While the Best Before or Expiry Date of a product is typically seen as a guide. What we’re seeing is where the Expiry Date would usually be a year or even two years away, the milk on the shelves today bear a date of November 2015.
As someone who has been buying Carnation Milk for some years, I have never before seen the product being sold with such a short shelf life. I have checked the expiry date of Carnation Milk in the UK and the product being sold has an expiry date of June 2016! So what is going on? We asked an officer at Consumer Affairs to investigate however we are yet to get a definitive response or position.
Our research shows that the price of milk is coming down from some of the highest prices ever, which naturally, would affect everything made with or from milk. It is our belief that this has increased the cost of Carnation so much so that it would not sell. So as a means of getting round the problem, our belief is that to overcome this challenge wholesalers are sourcing milk with a shorter shelf life which could possibly be cheaper.
We contacted some of our counterparts around the region and found that in all cases, the Carnation on sale expires this year. However, the cheaper brands in every case had a longer shelf life with an expiry date of December 2016. It is also quite possible that the importers might be being short changed by their suppliers. I doubt that details such as product shelf life is declared on invoices – perhaps the importers are unaware of the short shelf life until the product arrives in country. If that is the case, then the importers should take steps to rectify this breach with their suppliers.
But given that expiry dates are considered a guide what’s the big deal, you may be asking. Well, given that we’re in the information age, an era where retailers want to engage their customers, “Like us on FaceBook” is the cry. For what? Why not use that medium to dialogue with your customers? Why not treat your customers with respect and as people of intelligence and sound out your market? Posing a question such as “Which of these two options is most acceptable to you, Carnation at $4 a can or milk with a 3 or 4 month shelf life?” But instead the shelves are stocked with short date product in this underhand manner.
In St. Kitts and Nevis we contacted the importers, Rams Group of Companies Ltd for comment, we have still to received a response after a week! I guess its not that important to them what their customers think.
So how did we get here? No doubt our government agencies which are supposed to oversee pricing and quality of the food people are eating could do more. But we as consumers need to do more in terms of being aware of these matters; to question and challenge what doesn’t make sense. Let’s face it, there are tins of cat and dog food with longer shelf life than the staples we consume. Clearly, we have to fight our corner, as no one else will.