Discount stores rake in billions of dollars each year because of loyal customers like you. But in keeping the prices low, is some attention to detail lost?
When we went grocery shopping at some local dollar stores, some food we found was far beyond the expiration date. And that could be putting your health in danger. We shopped at various Family Dollar and Big Lots stores in Tyler.
Here's what we found: A tin of Nacho Cheese Doritos 3 months passed the expiration date. 'Cheeze and Sticks' that haven't been "dippable" since September 2004 Stove Top Stuffing whose date expired last October. And if you want to wash any of that down with the "HI-C Blast" we found; you should have done it before October 15th, 2004. So how much of a health hazard is the expired food? We took our groceries to Nutritionist Regina Dick at U.T. Health Center at Tyler.
"This is something that's several months old and so that would make me hesitate before I buy it."
We showed her old cereal we found; Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats stamped "better if used before" July 17, 2004. Her advice: "The longer it's been out and has been transported between places there's the opportunity for bugs to get in there or for weebils also." We found old dog food.
Regina says the older it gets the greater the chance for contamination and bacteria to grow. Then, a really potentially dangerous item; the dietary supplement we found with an expiration date of September 2002. Ms. Dick says not only is its potentcy in question, but there's a more serious health hazard because it's an oil-based supplement.
"Oils with time, particularly when they're exposed to more heat become rancid. and when they become rancid they act as an oxidizer in the body and they actually contribute to being bad for the arteries and being bad for putting you at greater risk for a heart attack."
We asked Regina about how expiration dates can effect canned foods. "Canned foods can always have toxins in them. and those toxins don't necessarily produce a funny odor, they always produce a change in the appearance of the food. and those kind of toxins can be deadly, particularly to children."
Regina Dick also suggests that you do not buy products that are dented or bent; saying that just leaves room for contamination. We notified both discount stores about we found. The Executive Vice President of 'Family Dollar' says they "have a company-wide policy to check codes and sell-by dates on all merchandise on a regular basis, and pull them if they are expired." "Big Lots" says "It is not company policy to sell merchandise that is passed its date." They blame 'human error' for the mistakes.
Both companies say they have notified their district managers about we found. But with so many stores to manage, it's easy for old food to remain on store shelves. Finally, we called some of the manufacturers of the expired food, like Kelloggs, and Kraft Foods for the "Stove Top" and the HI-C Blast. They took down the information on where we bought them and when, they even offered to send a coupon in the mail to get another product free.
So if you end up getting some of these old items when you shop, you should be able to take the it back to the store and get a refund or exchange.