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Federal gov’t, state must pass laws prohibiting the sale of expired foods

While grocery shopping in a local supermarket recently, I purchased a package of pepperoni I found in a display case at the end of the produce section. Upon opening the package at home and biting into one of the slices, I experienced a foul, uncharacteristic taste. In looking on the package, I saw that the expiration date had passed a while prior to my purchase.

When I returned to the store on another occasion, I found that in addition to the pepperoni that I had purchased, the store was also offering for sale bags of lettuce that had expired.

Subsequently, one Sunday morning I decided to make pancakes for my family. Since we had no pancake flour in the house, I walked to a nearby delicatessen to purchase some. After the purchase, I discovered the expiration date on the box had passed.

Coincidentally, during this period of time I received an e-mail from my uncle relating the story of a young boy who almost died after eating pancakes made from an expired pancake mix. According to the story, pancakes and cake mixes that have yeast develop spores over time. The mold that forms in old mixes can be toxic. This story confirmed my suspicion that the sale of expired food products can be deleterious to one’s health.

The hazards created by the sale of expired food products call for measures to combat this problem. Research revealed that apparently there is no state or federal law that prohibits the sale of expired food products. Local laws in Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties prohibit the sale of outdated perishable foods.

New York state prohibits the sale of expired, over-the-counter drugs and the sale of expired milk is prohibited under the city Health Code. There are state and federal laws prohibiting the sale of adulterated food products, but state and federal law do not specifically prohibit the sale of expired food products.

In order to prevent the serious health consequences that may result from the sale of expired food products, there should be state and federal legislation aimed at this problem. The intentional sale of expired foods should result in significant penalties to deter such conduct and impel food vendors to guard against the shelving of outdated food products. Public health requires no less.

Joseph A. Suraci

Middle Village

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