MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- FOX6's Contact 6 found "gross groceries" -- food that should have been pulled from grocery store shelves, via a hidden camera investigation. You might blame the store, but Contact 6 says there's something consumers should be doing to help make sure the freshest food is always available.
Contact 6's hidden cameras found brand-name mayonnaise on a store shelf nearly four months after the "best when used by" date.
Contact 6 bought the mayo, and warned the clerk about other older items discovered, including crackers and sandwich spread.
The clerk said: "I appreciate that. I don't want anyone to sue us."
Contact 6 then showed the bottle of mayo to customers in the parking lot.
"Crackers I'd be a little more lenient on -- but mayo? That's not okay," one customer said.
A FOX6 viewer didn't think it was okay either when she found bread, donuts and a half rack of ribs past their dates. She sent in pictures, and asked that Contact 6 investigate.
Brandon Scholz is the CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, and says the dates consumers know as "expiration" dates are really estimations by the manufacturer about when the food is at its freshest and sometimes, food stays on store shelves a little longer than it should.
"It's impossible to be 100 percent perfect. Is it commonplace? No, but it happens," Scholz said.
Contact 6 visited 10 stores and found dated food at each of them -- including things like milk, sliced roast beef, cheese, chicken fillets, apples, packaged donuts, Greek yogurt and crackers.
Contact 6 found two month old oatmeal and sandwich spread, packaged tuna nearly five months past the printed date and two dessert toppers -- one four months past its date and another nearly a year past its "best before" date.
"I would never buy it. I'd take it up to the service desk and say get that off the shelf," one customer said.
Contact 6 also found the following old products: sour cream, meats, packaged ham, tomatoes, bologna and baby food.
Also -- products with no date visible, or just a code that makes no sense to the average shopper.
Contact 6 showed Scholz two of the oldest items found on store shelves.
"You know, I bet most grocers would scratch their heads going 'How did we miss that product?" Scholz said.
He says large grocery stores can have as many as 60,000 items on the shelves at any one time, and that's why it's up to the consumer to check the dates before purchasing.
"Consumers really do need to pay a little bit of attention because there are times, unfortunately, when products will be on the shelves past those dates," Scholz said.
Consumers generally use the term" expiration date," but Scholz says that term is really not accurate. He says food past the date printed on the label is likely still good, but if consumers do spot something that seems old, it is advised they take it off the shelf and to the customer service counter.
Items can also be returned to the store if a consumer realizes the product is old after getting home. Most stores will refund money and/or exchange the product.