Friday, January 29, 2010

Oh Please, Krusteaz

The boys wanted pancakes for dinner tonight and, weary at the very thought of preparing one more batch of chicken nuggets, I was happy to oblige. I got out my pancake mix, added water, threw some sliced banana in the batter and got to work.

Then, I started worrying about that chain email that went around about a year ago about the high school girl who made some pancakes and then went to cheerleading practice and died because the mix was expired and the preservatives had turned toxic. For the record, I have no idea if that incident really happened or whether mixes turn toxic when they are past their "best by" date.

Probably an urban legend, and I was fairly certain that I had purchased my box of pancake mix in the past six months anyway . . . but decided to check the date on the box just to be sure.

Guess what? I could not find a stinking date anywhere on the box. No "best by," no "sell by," no "use by" date, nothing that resembled a month or year that I could make sense of.

To be clear, I am still not worried about the safety of my children because I know this mix is not really that old, but I'm starting to get all annoyed, as in, "This is crap. How hard is it to put a date on a box?"

The only thing I could find was this code: KE9180D

Was this mix from 1991? From September 1, 1980. Or, in some bizarro reverse universe, was the mix from January 9 of 08?

While my kids are eating the probably-safe-but-potentially-expired pancakes, I do a quick online check at the company website.

There are instructions for cracking the code:
"The code reads as follows:

· The first number after the two letters represents the year of manufacture.

· The next three numbers represent the number of days into the year
(Using the 365-day calendar).

Using the example below: DF6060D indicates the product was produced on the 60th day (March 1st) in the year 2006."

Um, okay. I admit that I am still confused. This code does not seem self-explanatory to me. Without access to the internet, I'd have no idea how to begin to crack it. Isn't this a box of pancake mix not a GRE logic question?

I will point out that the website also has a feature where you can put your code in, and they will then tell you when your box of pancake mix was manufactured. So, my box was manufactured on 6-29-2009.

Good news, right? I guess it is, assuming you know that pancake mixes (assuming proper storage conditions) are to be used within 24 months of the date of manufacture. But that's common knowledge right? And, pie crust mix . . . you've only got 12 months, but I guess you should already know that. Right?

I don't know what the laws are for labeling convenience products such as baking mix, but it does not seem too much to ask for a consumer to be able to make her children some pancakes without having to go online to make sure that her mix is not expired.

To repeat my earlier question, "How hard is it to put a date on a box?"

That is all. I beseech you not to leave any comments along the lines of "homemade pancakes are so easy--don't mess with the mix." I'm sure that's true, and I'm sure I'll mix up my own pancakes some day, but I don't want to hear that right now.

Anyone else have trouble with expiration dates? And, while we're on the topic, do you play fast and loose with such dates or stick to them strictly?


Mrs F with 4 said...

If frustrates the HELL out me that expiration dates are either absent, or incomprehensible.. in North AMerica at least! However, I don't stick *ahem* precisely to them in any case. If it has flour in it... I check for weevils, and if it's going to be cooked, I'm not quite so fussy. Which, to be frank, isn't that fussy in any case.

I'm pretty sure, though, that the whole pancake mix thing wasn't exactly what it seemed... I think it was something to do with an anaphylactic response to mould spores.

Actchy said...

This really is hilarious and outrageous. I do *not* abide by expiration dates, even on highly "spoilable" things like milk and yogurt. Instead, I use the "if it smells okay and isn't growing anything, it's edible" test.

E... said...

I usually do not rigidly adhere to the dates on things. For example, the rice milk I drink is only supposed to be good for 7-10 days after opening, but since I'm the only one who uses it, it NEVER gets used that quickly. I'm suspect as to how it can really go BAD anyhow. Not as if it can sour, However, I recently found a jar of beef bouillon cubes in my cupboard that were labeled use by 2001. I'm imagining the shelf life on bouillon is pretty long, so this means this jar has been moved to new houses at LEAST two times. Decided it no longer needed to reside with us.
But yes, I find myself googling info on dates all the time. Very frustrating.

CaraBee said...

I'm with Actchy, my general rule is that if it looks and smells okay, I'll use it, regardless of the date. However, I do occasionally purge the really old stuff. I admit, I had no idea that pancake mix went bad. I'm not sure if I've ever kept any long enough for that to even be an issue, though. (We're big pancake eaters.)

Why on earth would they need to use a code for the date? Why not just use the date? Bizarre.

Stacia said...

Pancake mix goes bad? Oh, crap. Guess I better throw my box out. I'm pretty sure it's from college.

cake said...

what actchy said.

LAP said...

I am pretty strict when it comes to dairy and meats. I get annoyed when it isn't clear whether the date listed is a "sell by" or "use by" date. Also, if someone could let me know the shelf life of deli meats, I'd appreciate it.

msh said...

along with most news stories that induce fear, i ignore expiration dates almost completely. but deli meat always feels slimy to me, so i almost always throw it away. definitely must eat that stuff in under a week from date of purchase.

as for pancakes, my kids are big fans of the frozen ones. my kids especially love the aunt jemima buttermilk ones. delicious.

Regan said...

Jerry Seinfeld has a good bit on expiration dates -- when they put one "how do they know that is the FINAL day?" etc. . .

I agree with Atchy -- when in doubt, always follow your nose.


Brandy said...

"but I don't want to hear that right now." AMEN!!

Besides I can buy the mix cheaper than I can buy a bag of flour. Seriously. And I don't mind a few preservatives. :)

I play loosely with expiration dates on most stuff. If it's been opened then I do the smell, sight test. If not then it's probably all good. Remember those preservatives??

Christian Mengele said...

I would like to say that instead of a usable expiration date, my box of Krusteaz Honey Cornbread had K9255G on it. Without a phone call or Google this cannot be understood.I'm saving the box in case I have to sue the company. This is because my wife believed the product didn't expire -- or else there would be an expiration date -- and only when we tasted the result of baking the nearly five years old mix, we decided to Google this. Thank you for your post.

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