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09/30/2005
CHICAGO -- Consumers wondering how fresh the food is on the shelves of Chicago's independent grocery and convenience stores are in for a rude wakening, according to a report by the The Chicago Sun-Times .

On Wednesday, Chicago City Hall wrapped up a two-month undercover investigation and the results were not pretty. According to The Sun-Times , 100 stores were visited by Consumer Services investigators posing as shoppers -- two randomly selected in each of the city's 50 wards -- and violations were found at 71 of those locations. Eighty-five citations were issued with 569 individual counts. They triggered $145,000 in judgments against the offending stores. Eighty percent of the citations stem from the sale of outdated merchandise.

"Consumers should not have to worry about purchasing outdated and expired food products, especially infant formula, from any store," Consumer Services Commissioner Norma Reyes told The Sun-Times . Meticulously checking expiration dates offers the "best protection" for consumers, Reyes said. The advice is "especially true for lower-volume items, such as cold medicines, and items that have a longer shelf life, including canned goods," the commissioner added.

The grocery and convenience store investigation focused on independents because city inspectors routinely visit the major chains.