Feb 19, 2010 2:02 PM by Andy Koen

Out of date: is it safe?

How fresh is the food you buy? We shopped around at some local supermarkets and found various food items with expired dates, dents and broken seals.  Suprisingly enough, most of it is legal to sell.

Dr. Bernadette Albanese of the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment says food expiration dates are set by the manufacturers and not the government.

"The expiration dates deal with food quality rather than food safety," Albanese said.

"It's actually not something regulated in Colorado or in our county."

The one exception is infant formula. Albanese says because formula is the sole source of nutrition for some infants, the risk of degrading nutritional value was such that it warranted federal regulation.

"We would not want an infant ingesting formula of inferior nutritional value."

So, how old is too old? We asked the food bank Care and Share.  Melissa Marts, the Chief Programs Officer, says most of the food they receive is past expiration.

"Part of hunger relief and food recovery is getting this expired food," Marts said.

Care and Share evaluates expired foods based on guidelines used by the Food and Drug Administration and other food banks around the country.

Canned foods with a high acid content like fruits and tomatoes are only kept for one year past expiration because they go bad the quickest. Beans, veggies and canned meats are kept longer.

"Any other canned good product is good product is anywhere from three to seven years," Marts said.

Albanese says most stores will pull expired food from their shelves but often it's buyer beware.


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