September 16, 2003

Check That Date!

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The premium quality of dining at Cornell is one of the most celebrated and advertised aspects of the University. Cornell food has won major industry awards, and Robert Purcell Market Eatery has been ranked as the premier dining facility in the country. Yet recent improprieties concerning several packaged items, particularly dairy, have arisen in three retail outlet locations on campus.

From Sept. 9 to Sept. 10, outdated Kozy Shack tapioca pudding was found in the Ivy Room. On Sept. 10, yogurt containers were found to be past expiration date in Trillium and yogurt and juice containers were found to be past expiration date in J’s Crossing. The most egregious of these errors was the pudding, which was dated Aug. 30. In Temple of Zeus and the Cornell Dairy Bar, eating facilities not affiliated with Cornell Dining, no such errors have been found.

Ivy Room managers stated that Kozy Shack pudding is a product that they are phasing out. They immediately removed the expired product from the dairy cooler.

The managers also said that any person encountering an expired item may receive full credit for their purchase by informing the cashier.

Yet with utilization of load-behind dairy coolers in the Ivy Room, outdated products should not have been an issue in the first place.

According to David Brown, senior extension associate in the Department of Food Science, “The load-behind is always the best situation, because the product is cold, and it is always kept cold.” Without having to go to the front of the cooler to load items, older products are usually pushed forward and sold first. Occasionally, spoilage occurs because refrigerated items are improperly handled once they are delivered from the supplier and outdated products are sold because of improper training or management.

“What I suspect happened was that it was an oversight either on our part or on our supplier’s part,” said Colleen Wright-Riva, director, Cornell Dining Services, who ensured an investigation of the outdated products.

In Trillium, the dates on yogurt ranged from Sept. 9 to the end of the month. Although yogurt is generally safe up to a week past the marked date, Brown cautioned against such practice.

“If you’re finding two to three code dates, that’s not good rotation, that’s not good management and that’s a problem,” he said.

But is Cornell legally liable for selling severely outdated products? Surprisingly, they are not.

“Upstate, there is no legal requirement to have a sell by code,” said Brown.

“They should be dropping the price on it, and you’ll see that even in grocery stores,” he added.

Students may be wary of expired foods, but their overall attitude only bordered on cautious. Joe Montalbano ’07 advised students to “get hot food more than packaged stuff.”

Anjali DeSouza ’04 did not plan on drastically changing her eating habits.

“I’ll check some foods where the date is easy to see, but as far as the prepared food, I just won’t think about it because it’s easier,” DeSouza said.

Archived article by Clark Merrefield