Posted By: Mama Mangia 
Jul 2  # 1 of 7

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We checked the date on the box of pancake mix and, to my dismay, found it was very outdated.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just that, and found an article the next day that mentioned a 19-year old male DYING after eating pancakes made with outdated mix.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

Not only should you check the expiration date of the foods you buy, but you should buy labels and sticker the date you open them! Once opened, these foods do not last as long.

 Posted By: r8rpwr 
Jul 3  # 2 of 7
Wow, that's some story! I had no idea.

Well, I guess on some level I did - obviously it makes sense that mold can grow in old food. But we, or at least I, don't think to check pantry items that often. Perishable foods are one thing but I don't often look to make sure my flour is within the expiration date.

Off to clean out the pantry!
 Posted By: loubear 
Jan 6  # 3 of 7
Thanks mama for the info that is so important and we just don't take notice of these things. I think I will start labeling these items and check the dates before
I use them.
 Posted By: Mama Mangia 
Jan 7  # 4 of 7
I watch my dates and labels constantly! Even after something has been opened and although it says good till next year or next month - I still don't trust it. Once opened - bacteria set in. I trust my judgment more than the dates on some food items. I would rather throw it out and be safe than try to use it and suffer any consequences. And those food items on the shelf that can last for the next 2 years - I'd rather make it fresh myself - with all the preservatives and additives and chemicals that are out there - there is no need to be embalmed - we are well preserved already!
 Posted By: medako 
Jan 8  # 5 of 7
I'm really bad about not using everything in a container and then letting it set...the worst is baking soda and baking powder....

*off to check some dates* I'd hate to kill someone with a plate of cookies or brownies!