News 4 Investigates: Wal-Mart Waste -

News 4 Investigates: Wal-Mart Waste

Experience tells us that sometimes the bigger an animal or object is, the longer it takes to be moved.

That seems to be the case with Wal-Mart, which continues to tell us it is working to change its corporate policy of throwing away food that reaches the "sell-by" or "freshness" date.

As we documented in our initial report, Wal-Mart is the only major grocer in the St. Louis metro region which throws such food away. All others, whether locally owned (Schnucks, Dierbergs) or nationally owned (Costco, Aldi, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Wild Oats) give similar food items to local food pantries.

While all these other stores have been doing this for years with no problems, Wal-Mart claims to have special concerns related in part to its immense size. Wal-Mart has thousands of stores nationally, while the other stores mentioned may have only dozens, to several hundred.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, has now joined the call for Wal-Mart to change its policy of throwing away these "sell-by" dated foods. Rep. Emerson wrote a letter to Wal-Mart president and CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. after seeing our initial report. Missouri Governor Matt Blunt also sent Mr. Scott a direct letter after hearing of our investigation.

Emerson has a special connection to this issue. The federal Good Samaritan law was introduced by her late husband, Rep. Bill Emerson, whose seat she now occupies in the House. That law provides legal protection for merchants and retailers who donate food to charities. Missouri passed a state version of the same law in 2006, creating specific protections for grocers who donate food.

Wal-Mart, which has had precious little to say to us on the record about their policy or future plans, has responded to Emerson with a letter that said, in part, it could take a year to implement a program to allow for donation of "sell-by" foods to pantries.

On a side note, our Wal-Mart Waste discussion board is still open for your comments. First, a few notes about some of the comments we've read.

There are no health code or health department requirements that "sell-by" or "freshness date" food is to be discarded. The dates are solely a quality control measure used by grocers, and are not meant as a safety guide.

There are some suggestions that our reports are somehow related to the long-running campaign by labor to raise public pressure for Wal-Mart to allow workers to form unions. There is no truth to this. Our report was the result of a tip from a News 4 viewer who was -- and still is -- dismayed at Wal-Mart's practice of throwing away perfectly safe, edible food.

We welcome your tips as well. Feel free to e-mail us through the link below.

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