We meat again
Special Report: We meat again
This may look like a grocery store worker doing her job, but she's actually breaking the law!
The meat being put back in the cooler isn't supposed to be there, because someone bought it, left the store, then came back and returned it.
According to Massachusetts state law, returned meat must always be thrown away!
But in a 7News hidden camera investigation, we found several stores reselling returned meat to unsuspecting customers.
We went undercover to five supermarkets in the Greater Boston area.
We bought a different cut of meat at each one, marked each of them with a dot only we would notice and then returned the meat more than an hour later.
Minutes after we return a package of hamburger to this popular chain, our cameras catch a worker as she quickly puts it back out for sale. Here's the dot we made.
The same thing happens at this busy, neighborhood market, and once again our cameras catch it!
Watch as a store worker immediately returns this steak to be resold. You can clearly see the mark we made.
And at the third market, the roast we bought sat at the return counter for roughly a half-hour before being put back out for someone else to buy! There's the mark showing it's the meat we bought.
7News shared our disturbing discovery with a city health inspector, who calls it a scary scenario.
Diane Chalifoux-Judge, Boston health inspector
"Once the product has left the store, we have no idea if there has been any contamination. Has there been temperature abuse? Was it properly handled? Has been the package been opened or tampered with? We have no idea."
We had a 7News producer waiting in each meat section to quickly buy all of the meat again, so it wouldn't end up on someone else's table.
But some shoppers worry they could easily meat up with this problem and never know it.
Christopher Diggs, shopper
"You found it back on the shelves. That's kind of scary, that's kind of scary. People can get sick."
Kristin Dissinger, shopper
"That's really disgusting."
It's important to point out that two major supermarket chains passed our test and didn't try to resell the meat.
As for the stores that did, health inspectors tell 7News that they're constantly reminding stores to follow all safety standards, but the only way they can investigate a store is if they receive a complaint.
So they encourage customers to keep their eyes open for what our cameras caught; a risky return.
These strict laws restricting stores from reselling returned meat are in place to protect customers from possible food poisoning.
Massachusetts Food Code:
3306.14 Returned Food and Re-service of Food.
(A) Except as specified in (B) of this section, after being served or sold and in the possession of a consumer, food that is unused or returned by the consumer may not be offered as food for human consumption.
(B) Except as specified under 3801.11(C), a container of food that is not potentially hazardous may be transferred from one consumer to another if:
(1) The food is dispensed so that it is protected from contamination and the container is closed between uses, such as a narrowneck bottle containing catsup, steak sauce, or wine; or
(2) The food, such as crackers, salt, or pepper, is in an unopened original package and is maintained in sound condition.
(Copyright (c) 2007 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)