Al Capone is the man behind milk expiration dates

Al Capone was a notorious gangster. He is associated with gangster activities in Chicago during 1920-1933 and prohibition. But what is not known about him is something we benefit from every day.

Courtesy of Al Capone

Mmilk expiration dates

The date on milk cartons showing the expiration date. Al Capone is the man behind this:

“In most cases, the expiration date is a date set by a dairy bottler based on the number of days the product will retain its flavor following processing, which typically includes pasteurization, based on standard refrigeration practices.

Why is milk dated? An unlikely answer to that can be found in, of all places, Alcatraz Island. During a tour of the former federal prison, a U.S. National Park ranger noted that Al Capone “lobbied for milk bottle dating to ensure the safety of the city’s children.”

Although Capone was sent to Alcatraz, it was for the white collar crime of evading taxes on the money he earned distributing alcohol, not for the numerous violent crimes attributed to him, such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

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It was reported that one of Capone’s family members in Chicago became ill from drinking expired milk. At that time, there were no controls on milk production, neither expiration dates nor controls on adulteration, dilution or skimming of the cream.

This drew Capone’s interest to the milk business, and he saw several things: the milk distribution business had a shady character – and Capone was comfortable with shady businesses; he didn’t like to see people, especially children sickened by adulterated milk; he saw a potentially high profit in milk distribution; and with Prohibition soon to end, he had a fleet of trucks that could easily be used to transport milk.

Capone took two steps to move into the milk business. One was to acquire a milk processor, Meadowmoor Dairies. The other was to have the Chicago City Council pass a law requiring a visible date stamped on milk containers.

On the second item, it was likely that Capone had already cornered the market on equipment to stamp expiration dates on bottles, and the passage of the legislation would help him take over the Chicago milk market.”

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