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JACKSONVILLE, FLA-- It sits on store shelves, waiting to be bought. But what if it sits for too long? First Coast News went undercover at stores across Jacksonville and found cases of baby food being sold past its "use by" date. The first was at a Big Lots on Old St. Augustine Road.

On February 18th, when FCN first visited the store, Gerber baby food sat on the shelves with "use by" dates of November 4, 2012 and November 21, 2012. We asked to speak to the store manager about what we found and were told the food should have been pulled and we were not allowed to record in the store.

We checked eight other stores around Jacksonville from various chains including Family Dollar, Winn Dixie's, Rowe's, Dollar General, Save-A-Lot and Publix, but we didn't find another problem until we went to another Big Lots. This time it was the location on Merrill Road.

It was a similar scene to the other Big Lots. The same brand of Gerber baby food, the same "use by" dates of Nov. 4th and Nov. 21th of last year. So we asked to speak to that store manager as well about what we found. We were told that no one could speak to us and we would need to go through corporate. FCN called Big Lots corporate headquarters on February 21st, but has not received a response at this time.

We also contacted the Food and Drug Administration which said, "use by" dates, likes the ones on the baby food, is the last date recommended for the use of the product while it is at its peak quality. Also, selling food past the "expiration date", which is different from a "use by" date, in some cases is not a violation of FDA regulations or law.

According to the FDA, most of the labeled dates refer to the quality of the food. Basically the "use by" dates ensure the products will be good up until that date, then the quality will start to deteriorate. How fast it deteriorates depends on the conditions it has been stored in.

FCN also contacted Gerber and its media relations department responded thanking us for bringing this to their attention and say they require retailers that sell its food to throw it away after the "use by" date has passed.

So make sure you are checking labels before you go through the check-out.