Health Article - Please Read

This article was posted in “Dear Abby”. I would like to share it with you.


Dear Abby: I recently made a batch of pancakes for my healthy 14-year old son, using a mix that was in our pantry. He said they tasted “funny” but ate them anyway. About 10 minutes later, he began having difficulty breathing and his lips began turning purple. I gave him his allergy pill, had him sit on the sofa and told him to relax. He was wheezing while inhaling and exhaling.

My husband, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, heated up some water, and we had my son lean over the water so the steam could clear his chest and sinuses. Soon, his breathing became more regular and his lips returned to a more normal color.

We checked the date on the box of pancake mix and, to my dismay, found it was very outdated. As a reference librarian at an academic institution, I have the ability to search through many research databases. I did just that, and found an article the next day that mentioned a 19-year old male DYING after eating pancakes made with outdated mix. Apparently, the mold that forms in old pancake mix can be toxic!

When we told our friends about my son’s close call, we were surprised at the number of people who mentioned they should check their own pancake mix since they don’t use it that often, or had purchased it some time ago. With so many people shopping at warehouse-type stores and buying large sizes of pancake mix, I hope your readers will take the time to check the expiration date on their boxes.

—Sue in Wyantskill, NY

Dear Sue: Thank you for the warning. I certainly was not aware that pancake mix can turn moldy and cause and allergic reaction in someone with an allergy to mold - but it’s logical. I wonder if the same holds true for cake mix, brownie mix and ookie mix. If so, then a warning should be placed on the box for people like me.

We hear so often about discarding prescription and over-the-counter medications after their expiration dates, but I don’t recall warnings about packaged items in the pantry. Head up folks!

from my files:

Baking powder - store no more than 18 months

Baking soda - store no more than 2 years

Biscuit, brownie and muffin mixes - store no more than 9 months

Bouillon products - store no more than 12 months

Bread crumbs, croutons - store not more than 6 months

Cake mixes - store no more than 6 to 9 months

Casserole mix - store not more than 9 to 12 months

Cereals - ready to eat - store no more than 12 months

Chili powder - store no more than 6 months

Cocoa mixes - store no more than 8 months

Cornmeal - store no more than 12 months

Cornstarch - store no more than 18 months

Dried pasta - store no more than 2 years

Dry milk - store no more than 12 months

Canned frostings - store no more than 3 months

Frosting mixes - store no more than 8 months

Flour - cake, all purpose - store for no more than 12 months

Herbs - store no longer than 6 months

Spice blends - store 2 years unopened, no more than 12 months opened

Ground spices - store no more than 6 months

Whole spices - store 1 to 2 years

Gelatin - store no more than 18 months

Hot Roll mix - store no more than 18 months

Instant breakfast products - store no more than 6 months

Pancake and piecrust mixes - store no more than 6 months

Parmesan grated cheese - 10 months unopened, 2 months opened

Pectin - store no more than 12 months

Rice, brown - store no more than 6 months

Rice, white - store no more than 12 months

Sugar, brown - store no more than 4 months

Sugar, confectioners’ - store no more than 18 months

Sugar, granulated - store no more than 2 years

Artificial sweeteners - store no more than 2 years

Tea bags - store no more than 18 months

Tea, instant - store no more than 2 years

Toaster pastries - store no more than 3 months

Sauce and gravy mixes - store no more than 6 months

Soup mixes - store not more than 12 months

Whipped topping, dry - store no more than 1 year

I have a habit of “dating” pantry items when purchased, crossing out the purchase date when opened for use and re-dated. All homemade mixes, canned and frozen foods (homemade/preserved) are always labeled and dated - especially when I make several batches spread out over a period of time. It was always done in the restaurants and I have continued to do it since.

Dating them when you buy them is a good idea, but you never know how long they have been sitting on the store shelf. I think it should be law that all grocery items should be required to have a use by date stamped on them. A lot of them have codes instead of use by dates, so you don’t know how long they have been on the shelf. I also think it should be illegal for stores to rub the use by dates off and then advertise these big sales on products. We have several discount groceries in our area who do that. I recently bought some lunch meat not noticing it didn’t have a use by date on it. When I opened it up there was one of those contest entry forms in there and the game had ended 2 months earlier. Needless to say I lost my appetite for sandwiches. A local doctor told me a lot of people who think they have stomach viruses actually have a mild case of food poisioning. I work at a cosmetic factory and our quality standards are higher than a lot of resturants and groceries.

Always beware when the stores are having huge sales - that means they are emptying their warehouses and cleaning out “old” food items.

Every thanksgiving they do that as well - getting rid of old turkeys by offering bonus incentives for $$$ spent, etc. You can tell when they stock up on hams and freeze them too - they are salty from being frozen. Many stores do the same thing with cold cuts - from both the deli as well as pre-packaged. The freeze hotdogs and sausages too. By law - they should not do that - because many consumers buy the items thinking they can then take them home and freeze them for future use.

That is why I make my own mixes - label and date. Homemade canned foods do not last as long as the ones you buy in the store - makes you wonder. The amount of “crap” that is put into the foods and mixes in the store make me wonder why we need to be embalmed when we die - we should be preserved forever with what is in foods!

Another thing - these supermarkets, delis, etc. that offer rotisserie (sp) chickens, BBQ wings, ribs, steaks, etc. - are most likely using food items that are on their last leg and should have been tossed. Like those meat packages that say - save (percent) if purchased today! But that would cut into their profits! Deli sandwiches and subs are made from old cold cuts and many times their cheeses have had the mold cut off them! They just rinse off the “stickyness” from the cold cuts and use them.

Another thing I have seen in supermarkets - deli/dairy items are delivered, checked in and left at the loading dock for hours on end until someone decides to put them away.

I have seen independent drivers as well as company drivers that work for bakeries - Wonder, Stroehmann, Schwebel’s, etc. (BIG companies) switch the little plastic tags on the loaves of bread. Each colored tag represents a different day of the week. This way you are buying older bread than you think! They walk into a supermarket or store, pull the “old” bread off the shelf and take it to the truck; switch tags and bring it right back in with other breads that may have been rotated out of another store that didn’t sell them fast enough.

There are many horror stories out there! Very scary! I’ll just keep playing in my own kitchen and doing my own “thing”. And I will continue to label and date everything.