Viral video of Walmart tossing out purportedly good food stirs up controversy as to its authenticity with Snopes reporting one thing and data from the FDA telling a different story.
On Monday, I received a video from a friend posted by Facebook user Gary Joe Ahrns who claimed to have discovered shopping carts full of food thrown away behind the Walmart Supercenter in Celina, Ohio on Monday, November 6, 2017.
Fact-checking website Snopes rated the video as miscaptioned a week later on Monday, November 13, 2017, reporting that Walmart sent them the following statement regarding the video:
Unfortunately, due to a tornado that affected our store in Celina, Ohio on November 5, the food being disposed of was unsafe to eat after the store lost power for 14 hours. Per internal and health department policies, we followed proper procedures by disposing of the food.
However, as some Facebook users noted, there is some question regarding the veracity of that claim by Walmart.
Gary Joe Ahrns can be seen in the video at about the 2-minute mark in the video questioning one of the store’s managers asking about salvaging some of the food. In specific, he asks for some canned ham, noting that the expiration date is not until the year 2020.
*** For those interested – you can watch Gary’s video here ***
That revelation kicked off an all-out war on the post, with Walmart along with their supporters on one side of the fence and those who believed that Walmart should have donated and/or salvaged the food on the other.
A particularly lengthy argument was initiated by a Facebook user named Rhonda, who wrote that “Canned food doesn’t require refrigeration!”
Another Facebook user, a Celina local named Sadie, quickly responded: “But if it was already cold?” followed by Ahrns himself who wrote: “Thank you. The ignorance of the masses, never ceases to amaze me.”
That was quickly followed up by this exchange:
- Sadie Shannon · Dude the shit is spoiled you cant put can goods in the fridge then let it get to room temp. You know you are wrong we had a fucking tornado hit our town??? Walmart still has no power the food is no good. They dont throw food away unless it is necessary. The donate food to our local citizens all the time. At the church by my house. They do good your an asshole!
- Rhonda Tomberlain Rhodes · Sadie Shannon Are you serious? Just because you refrigerate a canned good doesn’t mean it has to stay cold. SMH
- Sadie Shannon · Ok well i can garuentee walmart has a policy like any other store does thats called a health code they have to follow. That food was put there for a reason no one is going to throw away food that can be sold. Like how dumb are you all seriously???
At the core of the dispute is people’s interpretation of Food and Drug Administration policy regarding perishable food.
However, that was clearly up to interpretation by the individuals arguing on Ahrns’ post:
On the one hand there were individuals such as these two examples:
- Brenda Hicks Hill · FDA says even if something does not have to be refrigerated until it is opened but if that item was cold then once it is warmed up do not make it cold again & eat it. I know if it were our home most of us would just cool it down again if it warmed up but there are some people who may get sick. FDA says do not do that so companies have to follow their regulations or get heavy fines or shutdown.
- Sadie Shannon · Ok how many times do i have to say this to you people. Our town had a tornado hit it on sunday afternoon. Power was out and walmart did not regain power until Friday. They began running off generators on Tuesday. Our own health department released a statement saying every store disposed of items proberly. Look i dont like to see this sort of thing when there are starving people in this country. But as walmart has policys to follow so does our food banks and they would not have accepted the food either. These regulations are made for a reason so people dont get sick or even worse die. Look you can be mad at me but im just stating facts here people. Take the time look up some fda regulations, cause believe me its all there. Im not crazy or cold hearted its just facts. One person gets sick from any of that food and walmart is being sued for it they wont risk that. So with that being said it all falls back on the greenness this country has developed over the years. Its sad and our country needs to help each other and stop taking and expecting hand outs!
On the other side there were those such as the following two posts:
- William Hossenfelder · Sadie Shannon What did people do before refrigeration? Eggs don’t need refrigerated. Hams are usually salted and left at room temperature. Canned goods forever? People used to let cheese sit in seller for months.
- Joanne Weagle-Trudeau · Sadie Shannon Just for a lark…I did look up the FDA regulations. 😉 Canned goods (the ham, etc) are considered “Non perishable” food items. That’s why they sit on a SHELF…not in a fridge. PS…that food could have been donated. https://www.fda.gov/…/Resources…/Consumers/ucm197835.htm
Liberals Unite makes no claim to any expertise, instead deferring to the following suggestions by the FDA:
No matter the source, safety tips are the same for any foods you choose
Some foods that grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers weren’t able to sell are donated to charity – for example, when a product’s “sell-by” date has passed or a can’s label is torn or missing. Food manufacturers also may donate or sell some products that are near or past the expiration date. Some of these various foods also may end up being sold, at discount prices, in surplus grocery stores, food-salvage stores, or other bargain outlets.
An expired sell-by date, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean that a food has gone bad or is unsafe. Surplus and other bargain stores often keep good food from being wasted and provide nutrition at a good price – when the food has been handled safely.
But when food hasn’t been handled safely, as when canned foods are badly dented or damaged by rough handling, bacteria may grow that can cause illness.
Here’s what you can do…
If you’re thinking about buying food from a surplus or salvage store, or other type of bargain store, follow the safety tips you would follow when buying food anywhere.
- Never buy any can of food that looks swollen or has a bulge in it. This may mean that dangerous bacteria are growing inside.
- Don’t buy any can that’s dented along the seams that run along the top or side. The damage may have allowed bacteria to get inside.
- For the same reason, don’t buy any sealed package that’s torn, has a hole in it, or is coming apart at the seams.
- Don’t buy any can or package that’s leaking. If liquid can drip out, bacteria can get in.
- If a can has rust along the seams, don’t buy it.
- Don’t buy any food in a package that appears to have been resealed or repaired in any way. Food should be sold only in the original, intact package. (It’s especially important to keep this advice in mind when dealing with food-salvage operations, which sometimes change the labels on foods, or repack or reprocess them.)
- Food that has to be refrigerated should be kept at 41° F. or lower, to keep bacteria from growing. Avoid buying refrigerated food kept at higher temperatures. Ask the store manager about the food temperatures in refrigerated display cases, and look for thermometers in refrigerator cases.
- Don’t buy refrigerated foods that are past the “use-by” or “sell-by” dates, because these foods may be perishable and may have begun to spoil.
- Frozen foods should be kept at 32° F. or lower. Avoid buying frozen food kept at higher temperatures.
- Don’t buy frozen foods whose packages show that the food inside may have melted, then frozen again. For example, in cardboard-carton type packages, food stains on the package or other signs that the package has leaked are evidence that this may have happened. Frozen food that is thawed, then frozen again, gives bacteria a chance to grow.
- Food that has gone bad often looks and smells normal, so we often have to rely on other ways of knowing if it may be unsafe; for example, if the seams of a package or can are open or if a package hasn’t been properly refrigerated. But when fresh or prepared food does look or smell bad, you don’t have to rely on those other clues; it means that, yes, the food is spoiled and may have harmful bacteria growing in it. Don’t buy it.
- Ask the store manager if the labels on cans or packages have been changed. If so, the new label might not list the right ingredients or lot numbers. This is especially important if you have a food allergy or other dietary restriction or if a food has been recalled.