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. According to Dr. Oz, 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.