Tuesday, October 16, 2012

9 Supermarket Secrets: What Your Grocer Won’t Tell You

Elizabeth Renter
Activist Post

If you love reading about natural health, you may already be a little suspicious of every food on your grocer’s shelves. At this point, you are likely a label reader, you check produce stickers to see how far your vegetables have traveled, and you are on the lookout for food items you know, or at least suspect, may have genetically-modified ingredients.

But, are you aware of all the many supermarket secrets that could be working against your physical and financial health – aside from you feeling things like nasty effects of pesticides smothered on your produce?

Selling food is a business—from the subsidized soy and corn producers to the shelf-space in the grocery stores. And like any business, the primary concern is making money. Here are just a few ways that many grocery stores put your health and your budget to the test.

You decide which of these supermarket secrets are acceptable, and which methods seem to be less than ethical practices:

1. Shrinking Packages

Over the past several years, containers and food packages have gotten smaller. Whether they are trying to make up for losses in a bad economy, or if it’s just greed—food manufacturers are selling you less and they are selling these smaller packages at the same price! They’ll shrink the product (but not the price) for a while and then when they add a few ounces back, they can market it as “20% more!”

2. Expired Food in the Deli

That prepared food you buy from the deli comes off the shelves of the store, and they aren’t picking the freshest options. Instead, they’ll choose the foods that are closest to their expiration date, saving themselves money. A better bet: cooking for yourself.

3. Eye-level Shelves are Prime Real Estate

Food companies pay for product placement. The little-known companies and local food producers are often on the very top shelf or way down at floor level because they can’t afford to be right in the middle, where companies pay a stiff price to be closer to your eyes and hands.

4. Suspicious lighting

Your grocer may be making their wares look more attractive with colored bulbs. In most cases this is actually against the law, but is reportedly difficult to enforce. Red lights over the meat counters or green lights over the vegetables can make the food look better and make you spend more.

5. Dirty produce

There are no restrictions on who can fumble through the produce section. But not only are you taking home produce that’s been handled by other customers, it was put out there by store employees, the person who unpacked the box, and even the person who picked it. There’s no telling who has touched the produce or where their hands have been. So, if you need a snack and opt for something quick out of the produce department (smart thinking!), be certain you wash it thoroughly—even if it’s organic.

Other Supermarket Secrets You Probably Don’t Know About

Here are a few other supermarket secrets you probably don’t know about:
  • Freezing Food – Did you know that what you think is fresh could be months old? After being kept in a freezer for months to prevent aging, breads are finally thawed to put on display. This is known as “parbaking”. Similarly, meat is frozen before reaching the supermarket, but then thawed to look fresh in the market’s freezer. The problem? This opens a wider door for bacterial exposure and growth. Think twice before stocking up on meat, only to freeze it.
  • Avoiding Mondays – Deliveries to supermarkets don’t typically happen on weekends. This means that stuff purchased on Mondays is likely several days old. Wednesday is generally when supermarket shelves are stocked with fresh products.
  • Use-By Date – While it’s scary to think about, you could actually see the same products you saw months ago, with a new use-by date sticker on it. The manufacturer use-by date can’t be changed, but retailers can add their own use-by date sticker numerous times until the product is sold. Grocery stores need those profits!
  • The “Cold Line” - There is something called a “cold line,” also known as the “load limit,” where eggs are kept. The cold line is a colored line in the dairy section painted on by manufacturers. If you see eggs stacked above this line, know that these eggs can sweat, igniting possible bacterial growth.
Additional Sources:
Dr. Oz
Yahoo! Health

Explore More:

This article first appeared at Natural Society, an excellent resource for health news and vaccine information.


This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


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Anonymous said...

I've noticed the shrinking containers on store shelves. Notice that orange juice is now 59 ounces instead of the usual 64oz half gallon. Notice that Haagan Daaz ice cream is now 14 ounce instead of the typical 16oz pint (Ben and Jerrys is still 16oz). Notice the size on the containers (orange juice among others) is printed in a not so noticeable light gray lettering over a white background. The container size is placed at the bottom of the container is such a manner that the lip of the grocery store shelf covers it. The lip of the grocery store shelf covers the bottom 1/2 inch of the container. That's where manufacturer are printing things they don't want to see and be aware of.

I went to purchase paint at Home Depot. Even paint cans are shrinking. They're not a gallon anymore. They ranged from 116oz to 120oz, rather than the typical 128oz gallon. Notice that Home Depot and Loewes advertising for paint doesn't say what size you are getting. You presume its the usual gallon. But surprise, it isn't. Read labels before purchasing anything.

Vote for either Gary Johnson, Libertarian or Jill Stein, Green Party. Maybe we can get some consumer laws passed.

Skully said...

Yeah I seen the sneaky GAIN dish soap it USED to 11 oz BUT the dropped it to 9oz I noticed right away the bottle wsas smaller then the one I already had. Get this even B-Q briquets at Walmart the natural wood kind it used to be 10lbs for 6.47 somewhere in there and I went to buy a bag but decided not to after seen it was 6.5 lb/ oz instead of the regualr 10 lb.

No more chip ahoys...

Anonymous said...

I noticed a Frito Lay bag of Chips on sale 2/5$. I then checked the amount, it was 1/2 oz less than the usual bag. The next time i went back and they were not "On Sale" the bag was still 1/2 oz less but the same price as before the sale price. Sneaky sneaky....


i have worked in the grocery industry for 12 years and most of this article is wrong. The biggest misconception is "avoiding mondays" & "use by date". 99% of grocery retailers get a truck 7 days a week.so the idea that fresh product doesn't get re stocked until monday is complete B.S. The myth that retailers change the use by date sticker is insane. For one, we don't have time in our "overworked" schedule to change stickers for a few pennies. The product goes in the trash and we may even get credit for it. Not to mention the fines and we would receive for something this blatant. I could go on and on with this article.....

Anonymous said...

... and, of course, there's the human misery that went into producing these products (I can't seriously call them food) the farmers who have no choice but to grow chemically, because their governments are locked into the world bank, the growers who are forced to sell at a loss because there is nowhere else to sell to, the people who have the soul-destroying job of working for these coporations ... the list goes on.

Anonymous said...

I am here to tell you that the food at the deli does not come off the shelves. It comes directly from the manufacturer, and strict health and safety guidelines must be followed by all workers. As far as fat and calories go, however, you have a much greater chance of getting and staying fat if you frequent the hot bar at the deli.

Anonymous said...

Activist post, please read the above comments, alot of this article is bullshit.

Bill said...

I also have worked in the grocery industry; for over 18 years. There are only two points of truth to all of the garbage above: Yes, eye-level shelves are prime real estate. Products that have the highest margins are usually placed at eye level... no "trickery" there. Shrinking packages... yes, this is true, and has been discussed to death. But this isn't a "supermarket" issue, this is a manufacturer issue. You're paying the same prices for smaller packages because WE'RE paying the same prices for smaller packages.

The rest of the information presented above is purely misinformation spread by people who seem to think they know some dirty little secret of the grocery industry and in reality have no personal experience in the matter.

Oh, regarding the commenter suggesting you vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein... don't waste your vote. When was the last time that a candidate that wasn't a member of the Democratic or Republican parties won more than a 10 percent of the vote, let alone elected president? Keep in mind that the President is the least of your worries when thinking about consumer protection laws. Start with your state reps and senators, then your federal reps and senators. That's where laws are written and passed, not at the presidential level.

zazendo said...

Thank you fellow grocers for pointing out how much BS is in this article. I've got 16 years and I agree with the above commenter that only the eye level shelves being prime real estate and the shrinking packages are true. The rest is crap. Ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

The author of this piece, Elizath Renter, writes for Natural Society. She has cited all her sources, so it's not total crap. I did read all the contributing sources for this article. I think she has a tendency to cherry pick, and she has a clear bias, and she exaggerates and draws some conclusions that are a little far fetched. I wouldn't say ludicrous by any means, just a little overdone in the "fear porn" department.

Fitness Wayne | Paleo and Weight Loss said...

The dirty produce fact is pretty disturbing. The other day I nocked a bell pepper off the shelf and it fell on the floor. I didn't know what to do with it so I just put it back. I felt bad but then I felt even worse when I thought of the fact that someone else probably did that to something that I have eaten.

Anonymous said...

The point about handled fresh produce is very accurate. Here in Britain, it is known that an adult with no contact with primary school age children is most likely to contract an infestation of thread worm from a vegetable stand in a supermarket.

Anonymous said...

As far as the shrinking packages, that's normal due to inflation. It's not an evil practice. Instead of raising the prices on the same size package, they shrink the package.

This is economics 101. If people don't understand this, then I'm sorry. You have to accept the fact that prices are getting higher on food due to either drought, gas, etc. Supply and demand.

Anonymous said...

Another point concerning "shrinking packages",

No shit sherlock. Monetary inflation (which is more or less controlled and encouraged by the state) effects manufacturers too. Shrinking packages at the same price is essentially shadow inflation, instead of raising the price they simply decrease the amount they sell you. I would like to point out this is not calculated in inflation statistics, which just goes to show how utterly worthless they are at describing the real world.

mysticxian said...

Your almost right about the par-baking. Par baked breads are baked just past half-way through and then the baker or bakery worker will take the breads out of the freezer, thaw the product and then finish baking the item(s) for x amount of time.
There is clearly a taste difference from par-baked to fresh baked but you can only tell if you eat a lot of bread.
I am an experienced bread baker of 10 years and have worked in both bakeries and supermarket bakeries and have experienced both types of baking.

K et RB said...

We were out of the country when the Whole Foods GMO scandal hit the news [even in Europe]. When we returned yesterday, we went to WF to stock up....and we noticed a new rating system in the meat counter....#1 being the least organic and healthy meat and #5 being the best. We bought some #4 beef which was on sale and asked where the #5 meat was located. Our butcher hung his head and quietly said, "We don't have any." That was enough to make us decide to buy from a local rancher whose animals are grass fed in wild areas of the foothills nearby. But most people can't do that.

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