Who Knew? Changing “Sell By” Dates is Legal

We previously noted the accusation, by an irate customer of the Key Food on Atlantic Avenue, that she bought a chicken there that proved to be spoiled, and on which the tag showing the “sell by” date had been attached over another showing a date long expired. As it turns out, selling a spoiled chicken is a violation of law, but merely changing a “sell by” date isn’t.

The Brooklyn Paper: A Brooklyn Heights Key Food that has been repeatedly accused of changing the “sell-by” date on meat is off the hook this week after the state revealed that the relabeling practice is completely legal. …

“ ‘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.”

In other words, a “sell by” date is not like a speed limit: it doesn’t have the force of law. A merchant may freely change it, but the burden is on the merchant to assure that the food is good when sold.

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  • Jessica Berta

    On the subject of Key Food, has anyone else living within a block of the grocery store heard their alarm going off almost *nightly* for the past week? This typically happens between 11:30pm – 3am and lasts anywhere from two minutes to half an hour.

    I thought it was a car alarm, but the other night I walked down there after hearing it and saw a police car parked out front. The officer said the store is testing out a new alarm system…hope they fix it soon! Pretty obnoxious. (Besides, how many people are trying to break into Key Food to steal spoiled chicken…?)

  • WillowtownCop

    I think a case could be made:

    “S 120.20 Reckless endangerment in the second degree.
    A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when
    he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of
    serious physical injury to another person.”

  • nabeguy

    The “sell-by” date is also a tool for the consumer to gauge how long the meat has been sitting on the shelf. Shouldn’t it be up to them to determine whether they want to eat a three day old or week old chicken and not some manager who may be more interested in profit than protection?

  • my2cents

    This little story made it all the way to the HuffingtonPost!

  • Arch Stanton

    Just go to the live poultry slaughterhouse on Columbia street. Ya can’t get any fresher then that…

  • David on Middagh

    @Jessica – I suffered greatly, being across from PS8, when that building’s alarm system was waking the neighborhood some years ago. I heard that the motion sensors were being triggered by paper blown around in open-windowed rooms. It took a couple of frustrating visits to the then-principal’s office before the super, who was standing by, stepped in to save the day. I’m not sure whether he closed all the windows or readjusted the alarm settings, but he saved my sanity. (Now I see AC units in those windows.)

    If the Key Food uses motion sensors too, perhaps they are being triggered by objects inanimate or animate (people walking by outside?). I would keep track of the occurrences and make a case for ASAP.

  • David on Middagh

    (You know what I mean.)

  • Andrew Porter

    You can tell when the sell-by date has been changed; they erect a banner that says “Mission Accomplished”…