Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Fresh food angles: Auctions that sell expired food

August 30, 2012

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By Flickr user DC Central Kitchen

What happens to food if your local markets don’t sell it?

Serri Graslie, a freelance radio and print reporter based in Washington, D.C., found one answer for her NPR segment: Food auctions.

Suppliers buy food at warehouses then sell them at different auction houses, Serri says. Her segment says one bidder paid $2.50 for a 12-pack of yogurt that had expired. She says learned of the auctions in a YouTube video.

Serri Graslie

“There’s a whole world of food that never gets sold,” Serri says.

Her first step was finding the industry term for the food sold at auctions, which she did by using a different combination of terms, she says. That led her to the term “unsaleable,” which helped her find researchers and professors, she says.

She suggests reporters go to local grocery stores to see what happens to expired food. “You will probably find local grocery managers who are not allowed to send food out the door, but do it anyway,” she says.

She says talking to manufacturers and industry people didn’t help because they’re “so divorced from what happens to food.”

If you’re interested in producing a local version of Serri’s story, I found a blog that lists some of the auctions. Serri’s segment notes it may be difficult to determine the source of the foods so that may be another angle to investigate.

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