Food Safety in the eyes of the Consumer

June 13, 2022
Food & Bev

Speaking as a consumer, I must confess that expiration dates used to be all I needed when it came to food safety. Of course, I would be observant of basic food safety practices such as grocery employees wearing gloves, hairnets, putting meat away promptly at the deli, but this was the extent. I never really thought much about the accuracy of those expiration dates. If meat were exposed to temperatures above 40°F for an extended time period cumulatively, that expiration date would be void.

It wasn’t until the day I took out same-day bought chicken breasts with an expiration of 4 days later and started gagging from the putrid odor that arose upon opening the package. This is when I realized expiration dates cannot be fully trusted.  I wanted to know more. When during that chicken’s journey did it become rancid? If we can’t rely on expiration dates, how do we know our store-bought food is safe to consume?  

In December 2021, Sensormatic conducted a Deep Study on Food Safety which gathered information directly from the consumer. They found that 56% of shoppers have experienced food safety issues in the past, with 28% being within the last year. While most of these consumers do take action, the way they do so has certainly evolved. 37% of action taken involves telling others about their bad experience.

travels fast by mouth. But word travels faster by social media. This kind of bad press can sink a food company quite quickly.  And when it comes to trust, this is what consumers care most about. The study showed that trust is the number one factor that gives shoppers confidence in food safety. We want transparency when it comes to the journey of our food. We want to be 100% positive that the food we purchase is entirely safe to consume.

In order to have confidence in the accuracy of expiration dates, we (as consumers) should have access to the conditions of that product from manufacturing to the store. QR codes can store quite a bit of information that anybody can scan with their smartphone. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a product’s supply chain data at our fingertips? Having the certainty that the proper temperature was maintained throughout the entire process would validate the efficacy of the product at the consumer level.

With the recent advances in cold chain technology, transparency to the consumer is certainly possible and would alleviate many concerns about food safety. As a consumer, relying on expiration dates just isn’t enough.  With the staggering amount of people that have experienced a food safety issue, it’s time to step it up and provide us with the data we need to have complete confidence in the cold chain products we trust, purchase and consume.

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