The pitted dates from Pakistan tasted like they may have been stored in a moldy, burlap sack inside an animal stable. That is a polite description of what the disgusting taste was like. The bargain-priced dates were purchased from the Fallbrook Albertsons store last month.
Kirk, the store manager, listened politely to my “somewhat irate” complaint as I attempted to describe the unpleasant “dirty” taste. He immediately refunded my money with a courteous apology for any inconvenience. I retained the dates in order to possibly have them inspected somewhere.
Through Google, I was led to California Date Commission Compliance Administrator Kirsten Dickerson. After describing the taste to her, she offered to have the dates sent to their inspection services. After mailing the dates and sales receipt to her, she forwarded a report to me. I understand they will also send a letter to Albertsons regarding distribution of the inferior product from Pakistan by American Importing Company.
The summary report by Mike Falk, USDA inspector says: “They are an old crop – perhaps over 2 years old. The dates are off-color, off-flavor, off-texture, off-appearance, have an odd odor, and off-taste.”
This experience has reminded me to read all labels, not just the price tag. I will pay closer attention to the country of origin now and not assume all food producers and distributors are observing the standards we would like to think they do. I will buy California dates in the future with confidence and appreciation for product integrity.