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Taking a closer look at date labels on food products

If there is one product that everyone in Charleston needs, it is food. As such, you would think that legislators would do all that they can to ensure the products you buy at the grocery store are safe for consumption. If asked to identify the most apparent food quality safeguards mandated by law, you (like many others) might first guess expiration dates. Yet we at The Grubb Law Group are here to tell you that not everything you associate with quality is required by law. 

The so-called "expiration dates" you see on food products are in fact not indicators of when a food expires. Rather, they list the date at which it will be its best quality (or to what date retailers should leave it on their shelves). In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, except in the case of infant formula, they are not required by law at all. 

That does not mean, however, that they cannot be useful in determining liability if you or a family members falls ill after consuming rotten food. An "open date" on a food product label is the calendar date placed on the package by the manufacturer. If it is indicated as being a "Sell By" date, that means that a retailer should not display it for sale past that date. If you purchased a product that had passed that date, you could argue that a retailer was negligent in offering it to you. 

You could make the same argument about the "closed date" codes that indicate the time a product was produced. A manufacturer should not make certain products available for shipping if an extended period of time has passed and they have not been stored properly. More information on consumer protection warnings can be found here on our site. 

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The Grubb Law Group

The Grubb Law Group
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Charleston, WV 25301

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