When Consumer Reports' mystery shoppers found 72 products past their prime in 31 stores across seven states, the magazine decided to look into what product dating really means, and what happens to expiring groceries. For example, "use by" doesn't necessarily mean something is unfit to eat, but is simply not at its peak flavor. You can find info on how long products stay good enough to eat by going to www.fsis.usda.gov and entering the search term "food product dating."
In the issue, currently on newsstands, CR also found that most grocery chains and major food manufacturers work with Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief charity. The federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed in 1996, shields companies from liability as long as the food was donated in good faith. The charity distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated groceries per year to 200 food banks.Gluten-free
Cookbooks touting a variety of gluten-free themes have been piling up, but few appear as impressive as "1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes" (Wiley, $35) by Carol Fenster, who's written several other gluten-free cookbooks and is a popular speaker at conferences about celiac disease. Among the recipes are ways to make gluten-free pasta with amaranth flour, pizza dough with her special sorghum blend, and even a variant on the popular no-knead bread. Fenster, herself gluten-intolerant, has reworked family favorites to fight the notion that gluten-free equals boring. She also writes about making flour blends, how to best read product labels, and about conditions that may benefit from a diet that bypasses gluten. Her website is www.savorypalate.com.Haute vegan
The vegan food movement just went into hyperspace. Our pile of cookbooks with titles such as "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking," "Vegan Express" and "You Won't Believe It's Vegan!" just got toppled by "Great Chefs Cook Vegan" (Gibbs Smith, $35). Forget dishes like stuffed squash or nutro cheese. Here, Thomas Keller offers Purée of Sunchoke Soup With Pickled Red Radishes and Country Bread Croutons. Jean-Georges Vongerichten shares Charred Corn Ravioli, Cherry Tomato Salad and Basil Fondue. Marcus Samuelsson whips up Yuzo Marinated Fruit Salad With Carrot-Mango Sorbet. Vegan, by the way, is a plant-based cuisine. As the Idiot's Guide puts it, "if it once had a face, fins, wings or feet, forget about it." Vegan gourmands may not be up to preparing some of these recipes, but they might take heart that they exist.