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Thread: "Best by" & "Sell by" dates have no real legal meaning

  1. #1

    "Best by" & "Sell by" dates have no real legal meaning

    "The reality is that the onus lies with consumers to judge and maintain the freshness and edibility of their food—by checking for offensive slime, rank smells, and off colors. Perhaps, then, we should do away with dates altogether and have packages equipped with more instructive guidance on properly storing foods, and on detecting spoilage.

    Better yet, we should focus our efforts on what really matters to our health—not spoilage bacteria, which are fairly docile, but their malevolent counterparts: disease-causing pathogens like salmonella and Listeria, which infect the food we eat not because it's old but as a result of unsanitary conditions at factories or elsewhere along the supply chain. A new system that could somehow prevent the next E. coli outbreak would be far more useful to consumers than a fairly arbitrary set of labels that merely (try to) guarantee taste."


    http://www.slate.com/id/2244249/
    The cardiologist's diet: - If it tastes good spit it out!

  2. #2
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    That doesn't surprise me at all. It always seemed like a marketing thing to me. When beer & water started doing it, that was the tell-tale sign! Remember the skunky beer commercials?

  3. #3
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    I disagree. Would you have no information on your backing powder can? I LIKE my food to be fresh. (I date pantry items and make sure I don't have 10 year old spices, for example.) Consequently, I don't have a problem with manufacturers and distributors providing guidance as to when the food is of highest quality. All this probably has something to do with the fact that I can remember cooking when expiration dates were unintelligible codes or none. As long as consumers take dates as a guide, not a mandate, it seems to me that something is better than nothing. I don't find the lack of consistency to be a problem, as you get to know the foods and ingredients you regularly use.

  4. #4
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    I guess I'm just saying that it's OK with me that it's not a legal requirement. Things like organic claims are worth enforcing & having standards, IMO, not use-by/freshness dates.

  5. #5
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    Just after I responded, I came across this article in today's The Sacramento Bee. I guess anything can be scammed.

    Kay

    SK Foods magnate Salyer indicted on racketeering charges

    By Denny Walsh
    and Sam Stanton dwalsh@sacbee.com
    Published: Friday, Feb. 19, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1A

    California agribusiness magnate Frederick Scott Salyer was charged Thursday with running his company as a massive racketeering enterprise that routinely bribed food company executives, rigged bids and slapped false labels on old and moldy tomato products that families nationwide consumed.

    A federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted Salyer on Thursday after a nearly four-year probe of his Monterey-based SK Foods LP, which controlled up to 20 percent of the Central Valley's tomato crop.

    The highly unusual move to characterize SK Foods as a racketeering enterprise stems in part from federal agents' belief that as many as two dozen of the company's executives knew about the criminal nature of its business.

    "The investigation has exposed a web of corruption and fraud in the tomato products industry, centered at SK Foods," said Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.

    Nine food company executives already have pleaded guilty to felonies, and six are cooperating with the ongoing probe. A 10th was charged Thursday, and agreed to plead guilty and cooperate. Steven James King, 46, of Visalia was vice president of operations at SK Foods and pleaded guilty to food adulteration and misbranding.

    Salyer, 54, was arrested Feb. 4 in New York as he stepped off a plane from London. Wagner said Thursday that Salyer had booked a flight back to Europe for the next day and was planning to flee the country.

    Salyer was "exploring permanent residency in countries … from which he believed he could not be extradited," Wagner added.

    His mansion in Pebble Beach has been emptied of most of its contents and is up for sale for $7 million, court documents indicate, and federal officials say he has moved millions of dollars of his fortune to offshore accounts.

    Salyer's attorney, Malcolm Segal, denied his client was trying to flee prosecution and said he has business interests worldwide. He said Salyer, who is being brought back to Sacramento from New York by deputy U.S. marshals, will plead not guilty and will challenge the government's case "point by point."

    "The indictment fails to recognize that Scott Salyer managed dozens of businesses in the United States, Australia and New Zealand," Segal said Thursday. "The fact that employees of one business may have violated the law does not mean that he personally did anything wrong."

    The case involves one of the largest corruption probes in food industry history, with millions of pounds of substandard processed tomatoes illegally sold to huge corporations like Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay and ConAgra Foods, and unwittingly used in their products, the government says.

    The fraud was conducted in part via $388,000 in bribes Salyer channeled to food company executives through a New Jersey broker and former SK director, federal officials say. Prosecutors say Salyer's allegedly brazen discussions of the executives were captured on secret wiretaps the government used in the probe.

    Participants referred to the scheme as "the program," and wiretap transcripts portray them as joking about bribes.

    "It's your kids' education," New Jersey food broker Randall Lee Rahal allegedly told Robert Turner, an executive he was bribing. Both have pleaded guilty.

    Rahal, also a director of SK Foods, paid out much of the bribe money to ensure that companies purchased SK tomato products at inflated prices, court documents state. Salyer is charged with trying to hide Rahal's position on the board by omitting his name from a set of minutes.

    Federal officials contend Rahal bought competitors' bids from clients' purchasing managers to give SK an edge in the highly competitive industry.

    When the company ran short of the products food companies wanted, SK simply relabeled substandard tomatoes to fit the bill, the government contends. SK sold conventionally grown tomatoes as organic and altered quality control documents to sell tomatoes with illegally high mold content, court documents state.

    Tomato paste production dates were changed to make the product appear fresher than it was, officials said.

    The mislabeled products were sold to at least 55 food companies in 22 states, court documents indicate.

    The government says the ease with which SK Foods executives handled shortages of products was demonstrated by a statement Salyer allegedly made to Glen McClaran, then the SK Foods president, in May 2007.

    "You can solve all your problems with a label printer," Salyer allegedly told McClaran.

    When McClaran, who later left the company, refused to go along with the practice, Salyer responded in anger: "You can take your ethics book and shove it up your ***," court documents say. "We have always manipulated inventory and will continue to. We will lie to anybody outside the circle, but not to each other."

  6. #6
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    ha! good info, thanks. note the phrase: illegally high mold content.
    it's always important to remember that there is a legally "acceptable" number of rat turds (and the like) in certain packaged products.

  7. #7
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    Two words for you:

    Whole foods

    or

    Home canned

    Ugh. It's just disgusting. I wonder if Mr Label Printer sold under any other brand names.
    You can't drink rum on the beach all day if you don't start in the morning.

  8. #8
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    Aug 2000
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    Quote Originally Posted by heavy hedonist View Post
    ha! good info, thanks. note the phrase: illegally high mold content.
    it's always important to remember that there is a legally "acceptable" number of rat turds (and the like) in certain packaged products.
    Aw, come on now I just ate!

    As one who repeatedly ignores sell by and use by dates I'm certainly glad to know I'm not entirely wrong.

    Kay,
    Thanks for posting the article I hope to read it when I have more time...
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  9. #9
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    I would be a little sad to see the dates go because I like to know which dairy is freshest in the case when purchasing. Presumably, even with the possible fraud, I can rely on the notion that for any given brand, the later dates are fresher. I do "rely" on the dates in this sense when shopping for any dairy and also when I am forced to buy grocery store eggs or meat. I certainly do not rely on the dates for deciding when or how long to use. I use my nose and eyes for that.
    -Laura

    Muffins are for people who don't have the 'nads to order cake for breakfast.
    --Seth, "Kitchen Confidential" (the show, not the book)

    www.thespicedlife.com/

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    For perishables, I like that the dates are there as 'guidelines'. But I let my eyes & nose be the judge. I wish I could prove to DH it's safe to eat yogurt the day after it expires , if he only knew I'll use sour cream/cottage cheese/buttermilk WAY past their date, especially if the package hasn't been opened yet. And many of our dinners are made with meat with the huge "$2 Off, Sell TODAY" sticker on it. Often I scoop that up cheap and freeze for later use.

    I've been cleaning out my pantry and am happy to report we have survived canned chicken broth best used by 2007, and most recently canned pineapple best by (gasp) 2004! I tested out the pineapple and then for lack of anything to do with it, have been sharing it with my dogs as a treat as we are out of biscuits.

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