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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Baby Food Gone Bad

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I prefer feeding my baby organic fruits and vegetables. So imagine my surprise when I realized the organic baby cereal my son had just finished was expired. Not just expired - expired for three years! It was the kind you mix with breast milk or formula, and I'd just purchased it in November. After about three weeks, the box empty, I glanced at the top thinking, "Just how much did I pay for this stuff, anyway?" And there on the box top was the date "Nov. 2003." What??? I was horrified.

I suppose grains last longer and are often safe beyond the expiration date; my son, after all, seemed just fine. But how long after the expiration date does one go? I think my grocery store should have thought that one through and come to the conclusion that one does not go two minutes beyond the expiration date. This is what disturbed me most. Assuming that box of cereal sat on the shelf for at least three years, that's three years of employees overlooking it and leaving it there. If the company who made the cereal delivered it to the store already expired, the store still has no excuse. What's the logic in putting cereal on the shelves when it's that old? After all, it will be fed to babies.

I took the empty box back to my store, and long story short, they took a written statement and my phone number and sent me off with a $25 gift card. I thought someone higher up would call and set things right or apologize, but no such luck. My husband checked the store's shelves a few days later to find the cereal had been pulled. But yesterday, I checked again. New boxes, but every one I checked had expired this past November. Instead of taking it up with the store manager as before, I wrote to their corporate offices.

Unfortunately, the baby food company may be partly responsible as well. As I mentioned, it is possible they sent the food to the grocer's already expired. If this is the case and I'm able to find that out, I'll pass on the brand of the cereal. But until then, I won't take the chances of bashing a possibly innocent manufacturer.

I'm hoping by sharing this information, you as a consumer will not assume as I did that just because it's organic and on your grocer's shelf it's safe and good. Take a moment to check the expiration dates and the condition of the packaging. As for the baby cereal, you can always make your own. That's what I decided to do. I bought some organic oatmeal (Costco carries some), and then I put it in the blender dry and ground it to a powder. You can do this with rice too, if your blender is powerful enough. Then slowly add the powder to boiling water and stir as you do so. It doesn't take more than a minute for your ground oats to cook.

I'm feeling pretty good about this decision. I've been making homemade fruits and vegetable purees for him all along, and I haven't found it to be a burden at all. And the grocery store? We'll wait and see what the corporate offices have to say. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, check the expiration dates on anything you plan on feeding your baby. It's an easy way to make even more certain your baby's getting the best.

Update: I did hear back from my grocer, and it turns out there was a highly unfortunate misplacing of a lot number, which fell under the "Best if Used By" area of the box. The cereal was in fact not spoiled - but it was packaged at 12:03 pm, which looked like it was to be used by 12/03. Apparently, there was a mixup in the production of the cereal, and due to a list of circumstances, the box was marked inappropriately. The baby food company was able to track down the expiration date and reassure me that the cereal was not expired. Whew!

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Wow, what a fiasco! But necessity is the mother of invention - I never knew you could grind up oatmeal or rice dry. I'm gonna have to try it. Even though my kids aren't babies anymore, they love to have baby oatmeal mixed with applesauce (weird, but they just love it).