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Expired food: the search for little extra that may kill customers

In Abidjan, the economic hub of Ivory Coast, more and more female breadwinners and vendors are struggling to make both ends meet, at the expense of consumers. Cheating on food use-by date or best-before date is seen as a means to make a little extra.

Expired canned foods on makeshift shelves
Expired canned foods on makeshift shelves
The hunt for expired food items
Every day, as the morning sun pierces through the thick white mist hanging over Abidjan female vendors get set for the hunt for food items that are deemed unsellable by grocery stores and companies. That includes items that are past their sell-by date or use-by date and items in damaged packaging.

Female vendors first gather to exchange information about foods the companies or supermarkets either can’t sell or don’t want. They also dig out information concerning the places where the expired foods are to be dumped.

Tight-lipped government
One of the most striking facts about these makeshift ‘expired’ food stalls set up at sunset is that they are gaining ground across the city of Abidjan without sparking any reaction from the government. And instead of visiting their corner grocery stores more and more people rush to these stalls to get juice, biscuits, ketchup, corn flakes and other basic food stuff.  

Giving a second life to expired food items
Turning expired food items into new ones is a child’s play for many of the female vendors who just scrape the product use-by date or best before date and write a new one on the wrapper or the bottle.

Pricing: the big lure impoverished population can’t avoid
An estimated 48% of the Ivorian populations live on less than $1 a day. In such context, getting cheaper food items is a grace; mainly for impoverished families. Customers who buy the ‘refurbished’ products are not complaining due to the prices which are very competitive compared to those of the daytime market.

Devastating consequences
It is no secret that expired food items that are sold on market, be it daytime or night-time market, are damaging to human health. The fading chemical products used to fabricate those items are harmful for people’s health. The consequences are many and among them is renal insufficiency.

Sylvestre N’Ganza



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