Are stores allowed to sell expired food products?

January 26, 2015 14:25 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

In Georgia are there laws that prohibit service stations and convenience stores from selling out-of-date food products?

Consumer Ed says: 

For the answer to this question, we consulted the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The Georgia Food Act gives the Georgia Department of Agriculture the authority to put in place rules and regulations that businesses must follow regarding the sale of certain food products with expiration dates. According to the rules, “Expiration Date” means the same thing as “Pull Date”, “Best-By Date”, “Best Before Date”, “Use-By Date”, and “Sell-By Date” and they all refer to the last date on which certain products can be sold at retail or wholesale. In Georgia, it is considered unlawful to sell the following perishable food items past the expiration date stated on the label:

 

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Pre-packed sandwiches and other ready-to-eat products
  • Infant formula
  • Fresh shellfish (including oysters, clams and mussels)
  • Any potentially hazardous foods (meaning foods with time and/or temperature controls for the safety of the product) that are labeled “Keep Refrigerated”


For food products outside the list above – especially dry, shelf-stable products like potato chips or rice –the rules do not preclude the sale of products that are past the expiration date indicated on the label. Rather, the date is considered a “guideline” for freshness and quality.  If a food product has reached its expiration date, it will most likely be an issue of food quality, not food safety, and does not necessarily need to be disposed of immediately.  If the product has been stored properly and appears to be visually wholesome and fit for consumption, it can still be consumed after the expiration date with little to no threat of food safety concerns.

Keep in mind that a principle of American food law is that foods sold in the U.S. must be wholesome and fit for consumption.  An expiration date does not free a company who produces food or health products from such a responsibility.  A product that is dangerous to consumers would be subject to potential action by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove it from sale regardless of any date printed on a label.

To better protect yourself, always confirm the expiration dates on foods and beverages before you buy them. Nearly all food products on retail shelves include an expiration date on the product packaging these days.  If the item you're holding has an expiration or "best if used by" date that's already passed, pick another item. If you see expired items on a store shelf, there are several things you can do, such as:

  • Tell the store manager and follow it up with a letter. Send a copy to corporate headquarters as well.
  • Contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture Consumer Complaint line at 404-656-3621.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau (bbb.org)
  • Contact the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection (consumer.ga.gov)
  • File a complaint with the Attorney General (law.ga.gov)
  • File a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration (fda.gov).

 

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Finding a reputable nursing home in Georgia

November 5, 2014 19:45 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I want to find a good, reputable nursing home for my grandmother, who lives in West Georgia. What are some resources I can use?

Consumer Ed says: 

Finding a quality nursing home for a loved one is a serious and formidable task.  However, it can be made less intimidating when using a number of online resources to help guide your search.  But, before you make any decisions about long-term care, first gather as much information as possible about places in your desired area and what help your loved one may need.  A nursing home may not be your only, or even your best, choice. Whether you decide on home health, assisted living, a nursing home, or one of many other options, there are community and state agencies and organizations that can help you make your long-term care decision-making process more comfortable.

A great starting point for your research is LongTermCare.gov, a website developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to inform Americans about the long-term care options available in their communities.  Along with general information about long-term care, the website provides links to tools like the “Eldercare Locator," a website and call center that connects you to state and local agencies on aging, as well as community-based organizations that serve older adults. Specifically, this site provides information about your local Area Agency on Aging, which is designated by the State to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at regional and local levels.

Another valuable resource is the “Nursing Home Compare” tool on Medicare.gov, which can also be found as a link on the LongTermCare.gov site.  “Nursing Home Compare” has detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country.  It provides a tool to help consumers compare nursing homes with links to a ratings system, contains complaints against certain nursing homes, links to local health advocates, and offers a comprehensive guide to choosing a nursing home.

Your local long-term care ombudsman can be a significant resource in your research as well.  Long-term care ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, and assisted living facilities.  Your local ombudsman can provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care.  You can find the contact information for your local long-term care ombudsman by visiting www.georgiaombudsman.org.

The State Bar of Georgia also provides information regarding legal rights and contact information about state resources at: www.gabar.org/newsandpublications/consumerpamphlets/nursinghomerights.cfm. The site explains what you need to know before signing a nursing home admissions agreement, and what your loved one’s rights are as a nursing home resident.  It also provides a list of agencies to contact for assistance or with any questions or concerns you may have.

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Sunscreen guidelines

June 28, 2012 18:11 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I am getting ready to take my children (ages 1 year and 5 years) on a vacation to Tybee Island.  I want to make sure they are protected from the sun.  What are the latest guidelines concerning sunscreen?

Consumer Ed says: 

With summer here, many people have plans involving outdoor activities in the sun.  Because sun exposure is known to increase the risk of sunburn, skin cancer and early skin aging, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has announced significant changes to their sunscreen products, effective June 18, 2012.   The FDA recommends that consumers use Broad Spectrum sunscreen (sunscreen that protects against damage from both UVB and UVA radiation) with an SPF (sun protection factor) value of 15 or higher, in addition to other protective measures such as:  covering skin with clothing whenever you’re in the sun; limiting time in the sun between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M.; using water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating; and reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours (more often if one is sweating or engaging in water-related activities).

It is also important to note that there is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen; rather, what’s available is water resistant sunscreen.  Water resistant sunscreens state how long they are effective, with ranges between 40 and 80 minutes.  To understand when to reapply a particular sunscreen, it’s best to read the instructions on the sunscreen bottle.  To keep up with the latest sunscreen guidelines, visit the FDA website (www.fda.gov).

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