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.