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Tue, Feb. 25

Dear Annie: Elusive expiration dates

Dear Annie: OK, I realize there are innumerable insurmountable, earth-shaking universal problems in our world. This is definitely a “First World problem,” but it is one that could be easily fixed.

Could manufacturers please mark their food products with expiration dates that are easy to locate and read? I probably spend a third of my grocery shopping time squinting, turning products round and round or holding them up to light, trying to locate teeny-tiny black type on, for example, dark brown iced tea bottles or embossed lettering on lids of yogurt containers. And why do they have the date stamped on the bottom, forcing people to pick up and turn each container? Why do they put dates on the ends of egg cartons so people must unload an entire shelf of fragile eggs trying to seek out the elusive printed dates?

How about some buyer-friendly bright type on the fronts of products? Wouldn’t that be just as easy for the producers as what appears to be their attempt to make buyers play hide-and-seek with these dates?

Now back to focusing on world peace. — Exasperated by Expiration Dates

Dear Exasperated: After receiving your question and looking into it more, I was surprised to learn that there are no federal laws requiring companies to print expiration dates on food products (except for infant formula and baby food). Some states have laws mandating expiration dates on meat and milk, but that’s about it, in terms of legal requirements. So you can’t rely on these dates as the ultimate pantry authority; you might end up eating something that’s past its prime or throwing away something that’s perfectly fine.

Bottom line: Expiration dates can offer a helpful guide, but you should still use your senses and common sense to decide whether a product is safe to eat.

Dear Annie: I am somewhat appalled by “Wish She’d Stop,” who complained about her 82-year-old mother. Having her mother over once a week is very nice and expected. Considering no longer inviting her mother for dinner is an indication of this daughter’s lack of compassion and understanding.

My 92-year-old mother lives with my husband and me, along with her yappy little dog, who has accidents in the house often. My mother has unpleasant habits, as well. For instance, she leaves messes in the bathroom. I would never humiliate her by pointing this out to her. I discreetly slip into her bathroom and clean the fixtures. When we have guests, I leave antiseptic wipes on the counter. I also have them use the other bathroom. When her dog leaves little gifts on the carpet, I pick them up and never complain. It is my responsibility to take the dog for walks to avoid this inconvenience. I would never dream of stripping away my mother’s dignity by mentioning these inconveniences.

“Wish She’d Stop’s” mother changed her diapers, wiped her snotty nose, bandaged her scraped knees and cleaned her vomit. The elderly revert back to childish habits. Such is life! This daughter can offer to clean her mother’s dentures and treat her wounds. The scab picking should be brought to the attention of her treating physician, as I believe this is a psychological problem.

It is no big deal to treat her mom with proper respect. Mothers this age come from the greatest generation known in our lifetime. They lived during the Depression and World War II. They have known real hardship.

Many organizations in the community offer caregiving classes, which I have taken. This daughter could benefit from such classes. She would learn how to care for and understand her mother’s behavior. — Caregiver in Arizona

Dear Caregiver: Bravo for finding the most compassionate way to handle what many of us would consider problems. Your degree of sympathy is inspiring.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to

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