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by Abigail Van Buren

Out-of-Date Food Finds Permanent Home in Mother's Cupboards

DEAR ABBY: My mom and many others share this problem. She refuses to throw away expired food. I'm not talking about something a few days past its "best used by" date; I'm talking years.

Yesterday, I found a box of bread crumbs that had expired in 2001 (I took a picture). Mom insisted that they "never really go bad." I told her she had better hope she isn't the beneficiary of the life insurance policy of anyone who eats them or she could end up as an episode of "Snapped."

Seriously, though, this is a huge problem for the elderly. I hope you will encourage your readers to help their older friends and family members by cleaning out their fridge and cabinets. I always check the expiration date before eating anything at my mom's. Thank you! -- DATE CHECKER

DEAR DATE CHECKER: Your mother is mistaken. While it is safe to consume some foods a few weeks past their expiration date, other items begin to lose their nutritional value or spoil.

I'm glad you wrote. I'm printing your letter for other readers whose older relatives think the way your mother does, so they can check the expiration dates on packages in their relatives' cupboards (and remove any bulging or rusted cans that could cause botulism, a fatal illness).

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety