Tuesday, June 9, 2020

PSA from PsA: Recognizing expired products at Asian groceries (or, rather, recognizing when things aren't expired).

With many Asian groceries now reopened with at least limited hours in Allegheny County's green phase, it is worth sharing information on spotting expired products; or, rather, recognizing when a product in an Asian grocery isn't expired. There is a stereotype that one needs to be extra vigilant at Asian groceries becaue of lax attitudes toward expiration dates. However, while I've purchased expired instant Maxim coffee at a store that was older than the expired Maxim coffee in my closet, I've also found expired baby food at Giant Eagle and expired yogurt at Aldi, so one type of store is not necessarily more notorious than another.

At first glance, a ton of products you find at an Asian grocery look expired based on the dates printed on the packages. For example, this package of frosted snacks or this cup of instant noodles:

Customers may need to look in more than one place in order to determine if something is still with its best-by date. While both items above may read expired based on the printed date, the packages actually show the production date, with the expiration date expressed differently. The snacks have 12月个 right above, which tells us the product is good for twelve months after this date. The instant noodles has this information printed elsewhere; in this case, it's printed among the ingredients and manufacture information (circled in white because the zoomed-in photo was too blurry to post):

Here are a couple other examples from last fall that feature the same pattern:

A great many products will present the dates in this way, so before claiming that something is expired it makes sense to flip the package around and find this additional information. Note, too, that the last image of chips above tells you more about how the date is presented; this is especially useful when a date like 06092020 could mean September 6 or June 9. Above the printed date, and above the 9月个, it says 年 / 月 / 日, which tells us the year comes first, followed by the month, followed by the date.

On some packages, the order of the month and the date is reversed. 

Finally, some packages will list both the production date and the expiration date:

The point is not that expired products won't be on the shelves, but rather that different ways of reporting these dates may lead to confusion. The next time you're shopping at an Asian grocery, see if you can spot the different styles and what patterns you find.