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Mom asks, 'Can stores sell expired food?'

Daughter eats Goldfish crackers well past their sell-by date
Mom asks, 'Can stores sell expired food?'
Posted at 4:09 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 16:09:37-05

JJ Wilkinson was shopping at the outlets recently, when she decided to stock up on discounted goldfish crackers, at the Pepperidge Farm bakery outlet.

Her 7-year-old daughter loved them.

But when the girl bit into the first handful, Wilkinson says, "She quickly, as children do, cause they have no filters, said, 'These taste funny, these don't taste the same.'"

Wilkinson checked the bag and couldn't believe what she saw.

"The dates said December 14th, 2019," she said. "They were about 35 days past the sell-by date."

So she called Pepperidge Farm, and got a bit of a surprise. "They told me that they are allowed to sell past the sell by date, because it is just a recommended date."

What US law says

Many shoppers wonder what the laws say when it comes to selling expired bakery products.

We checked with the FDA, and found despite what many people believe, there are no laws for the most part.

The US government says "except for infant formula, product dating is not required by federal regulations."

In addition, it says a sell-by date "is not a safety date," but rather just a suggestion for freshness. The FDA says most food (beyond perishables) is safe to eat for weeks after its date. Canned food can be good for months afterward.

A Pepperidge Farm spokeswoman, however, told us, "It is not standard to sell expired product in our stores," and offered Wilkinson a refund.

But legally, they can do it, leaving Wilkinson offering a tip for other parents.

"Make sure, yes, that you do check your dates," she said.

Why you should check dates

Many shoppers are unaware that supermarkets are also allowed to sell food past the sell-by dates, but most don't, as it would give them a bad reputation with shoppers, and impact their sales.

But as food approaches its sell-by dates, grocery stores may ship it to dollar stores and outlet stores, where you have a greater chance of buying outdated items.

So check those dates when buying, so you don't waste your money.

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