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Is it illegal for stores to sell food with expired labels?

6:04 PM, Oct 25, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On any given day, you will find customers making their way to a St. Augustine Discount Grocery store where the products have expired or outdated labels. Don't raise your eyebrows -- not yet.

"I'm cheap by nature," said Rob Depiazza.

He buys groceries in a store where you will find boxes of Chewy bars that have a July expired label. Or a can of soup with a use by date of February.

Depiazza, a small businessman, feels shopping in the discount grocery store gives him the most bang for his buck.

"I use a lot of anchovy paste in cooking," he said, "I found a whole case at scratch and dent for about a third of the retail."

Lynn Osborne operates two St. Augustine stores that sell outdated foods. She said the foods are perfectly safe.

"We don't sell anything we won't take home and put on our dinner table for our family," said Osborne.

The foods are so called "close out" or "reclaim groceries" -- food that has been rejected by major supermarkets because they're out of date or damaged.

"Juices are good two years after the date, dry goods six months to year, depending on how you store them," said Osborne, "Goods in cans are good indefinitely as long as the seal is not compromise."

Osborne said she lets her customers know up front about the expired labels to ease their concerns and correct what she calls misconceptions.

"The biggest misconception with people is that when it is expired it is bad. It is not," said Osborne.

It may not be bad, but is selling food with outdated or expired labels legal? 

The FDA, the agency that protects our food supply, and was told that with the exception of Infant Formula, the laws that the Food and Drug Administration administers do not preclude the sale of food that is past the expiration date indicated on the label.

"Many times, there's so much confusion about labeling in general," said Stewart Watson.

Watson said the role of the FDA is to make sure the food is safe and whole some. He has personal reservations about buying foods with expired labels.

"I wouldn't buy it," said Watson.

"Expired by," "Use by" or "Best before" dates are created by the product manufacturer. They are not required by the FDA.

Watson said as long as the food is safe and wholesome, it is up to  the customer.

The stores First Coast News visited only sell dry food or canned foods. Yes, they are inspected by the state, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. If there's a problem, you can report it the state at 1-800-435-7352.

But the practice is legal. It is up to you, the consumer, to decide if you want to buy products with outdated labels. In most cases, you will be sacrificing freshness for a few extra dollars in your pocket.

First Coast News

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