So it’s official. According to a research done by the Czech daily MF DNES, over one third of grocery stores in the Czech Republic sell bad or expired food. Items are either left on the shelves past the expiration date, or, in worse cases, repackaged with a “new” expiration date printed on them. (iDNES article – in Czech)
A manager of the Julius Meinl meat department in České Budějovice is facing two years in jail for having ordered her staff to rinse expired meat. Employees were instructed to rinse bad meat products in a mixture of water and vinegar to remove any smell, and to cut off bad parts. The meat was then sold to customers. (iDNES article – in Czech)
I’m unfortunately used to seeing expired food on the shelves. It seems to be quite normal at some small grocery stores in my neighborhood where expired butter, chocolate or packaged ham aren’t hard to find. Since moving back to the Czech Republic a year ago, I’ve learned to check the expiration date of each and every product I put into my basket. It makes shopping take longer, but I’d rather spend the extra time to not have to throw away the contents of my bag after coming home. Not that it’s never happened and not that checking expiration dates always does the trick.
A few months ago, Jeff and I made a decent size shopping at the Delvita on Karlovo náměstí. We wanted to stock up on meat (we had bought meat there previously and were happy with it), so we bought two packages of pork tenderloin (panenka, the most expensive cut) and a package of chicken breasts, all marked with a future expiration date. When we got home and opened one of the packages of pork to cook it for dinner, we were greeted with a horrible smell that didn’t go away even after we let the meat “breathe”, refusing to believe that “our Delvita” actually sold us bad meat. We checked the other package and it was the same. To our astonishment, the chicken was bad as well. We threw out all the meat and were left with no dinner. But wait, that’s not all. I remember throwing out another item from that day’s shopping. Was it moldy bread? Maybe. Anyway, the Delvita on Karlovo náměstí is not “our Delvita” anymore.
Another similar experience was recently provided by the Carrefour Eden in Prague 10. We shop there regularly. Among other things, we used to buy fresh fish there because we can’t find it anywhere else within a reasonable radius from our home. Around 7 p.m. on September 6, we bought our usual salmon fillets and we also splurged and got two cod fillets. Not the cheap cod. We got the more expensive kind. You can imagine our surprise when we unwrapped the fish around noon the next day, looking forward to making our favorite baked cod, and, yet again, our noses were hit with a sickening smell. So, after striking Delvita on Karlovo náměstí from our list, we also no longer buy fresh fish at Carrefour Eden, or do so rarely and with a sense of taking a chance. The fact that one of the fish counter employees routinely uses his teeth to open the plastic bag before wrapping your fish in it isn’t exactly appealing either.
I’m not even going to elaborate on Carrefour’s fruit and vegetable section where one can happily select from rotten apples and grapes and tired-looking tomatoes. Sometimes I stand in front of the displays of rotten fruit and quietly wonder if it is for real or if the store is trying to play a joke on us. But no one ever laughs.