ORLANDO, Fla. -- A coalition of special-interest groups has teamed with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to charge Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., with failing to identify fresh meat that has been rewrapped and offered for sale.
The charges were made at a press conference here by representatives of the National Consumers League, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, representatives of local religious and senior citizen groups and the UFCW.
In response to the charges, Publix officials defended the chain's practice of rewrapping some packages of meat and adding one more day of shelf life beyond the original sell-by date.
A Publix official said the charges stem from a campaign by UFCW to defame the chain's reputation since the chain expanded into Georgia and South Carolina on the same non-union basis on which it operates in Florida.
According to Publix, packages of meat that are not sold within three days are inspected on the evening of the third day. "If the product is still good, the meat is rewrapped and put out for sale for a fourth day -- labeled with the fourth day's date as a sell-by date," a chain official told SN.
"Then, if the meat still has not been sold by the evening of the fourth day, it is pulled off the shelves permanently that evening," the chain source said.
The sell-by date on meat packages is an internal tool used by the chain to alert employees to check any packages that have not been sold within three days, the Publix official said.
"If a product is still on the shelves by the date shown on the package, Publix associates give it a visual and physical inspection," Crenshaw explained. "If the item passes this test, it is then rewrapped, with an 'R' placed on the label to alert Publix associates that it should be pulled at the end of the day if it does not sell."
Linda Golodner, president of the National Consumers League, told SN her group objects to the fact that Publix displays rewrapped packages of meat next to packages that have not yet reached their sell-by date, and does not make it clear to consumers that some packages have been rewrapped after their sell-by date.
She said Publix's rewrapping practices were brought to her attention by current and former chain employees, who were in turn referred to the league by the UFCW. Golodner said unless Publix alters its policies, her group will further publicize the chain's handling practices throughout Florida.