Monday, May 05, 2008


Disclaimer: if you easily get disgusted by stories about what happens to your food before you buy it, you might want to skip over to the next post.

Maxima is the biggest supermarket chain in Latvia. They have a low-cost, low-quality image in Latvia and, for the last months, they've been trying to shed the "low-quality" part. Until recently, they were somewhat successful. Then, they plastered Riga with posters saying "Salad-washing is a myth!".

I used to think that "salad-washing" meant washing lettuce before making a salad out of it. I was badly wrong. It means taking unsold prepared salad which is beyond its expiry date (for example, rasols, which consists of potatoes, meat, pickles, beans and mayonaise) and putting it under running water to wash away the old dressing (mayo, in this case). After that, they put a new dressing on the salvaged meat and vegetables and sell it as new salad.

Maxima was trying to assure people that this is an urban legend, via posters and TV commercials. Unfortunately, former employees started coming forward with their stories of how they had to recycle expired food into food labelled as new. The stories have been all over Latvian news for last few days.

So, Maxima has shot itself in a foot. Before this, there were a few thousands of people gossiping about Maxima practices. Now, it's most of the country discussing whether expired salads indeed get washed. And if that's true, Maxima deserves every bit of the bad publicity they've gotten.

On the positive side, I've been buying prepared salads in stores other than Maxima (I didn't have a good image of them - even prior to this). And I've not had any health or even taste problems. So, maybe these practices are isolated to one store chain after all...

UPDATE (5/28): Maxima is so committed to disproving the rumours that they are setting up webcams in their production facilities, so that anyone can check on them over the Internet. Are they innocent, after all?


*uri said...

Don't be naive. I'm sure the other shops follow the same practices. The reason you haven't got any health issues is probably because there is no significant health risk involved. It's just somewhat disturbing to think about it. But then again, already Bismarck knew: "To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making."

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