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Food dating mostly voluntary

Is there a law that requires best-when-purchased-by dates to be stamped on food items? _ S.P.

Response: The only food item required by federal law to carry an expiration date is infant formula. State government regulates expiration dates for perishable items such as milk and eggs.

On all other foods, the Food and Drug Administration "encourages" manufacturers to put product codes on packaging, especially for products with a long shelf life. Consumers cannot translate the codes, but manufacturers can use them to tell when and where the product was packaged, making it easier to quickly identify and track down a product that has been taken off the market.

Some manufacturers use "open dating" that can be read by consumers.

Open dating may involve a "pull date" indicating the last day that the manufacturer recommends the product remain for sale, a best-if-used-by date, a pack date showing how old the product is or an expiration date, which is the last day on which the product should be eaten.

Seam is frustrating

I had a carpet laid by Carpets by French for which I paid $1,547.

I then noticed a seam right down the middle of the living room. I complained. A salesman came and said it was noticeable and that French would take care of it.

Three times they came, but nothing was ever accomplished. The seam is still there.

I live on a fixed income, and it took me about six years to afford this carpet. It is very frustrating to have to look at it every day. I hope you can help. _ Margaret Heath

Response: Jerry Trautner, French's general manager, said you have a 24-foot-wide mobile home so the 12-foot-wide roll of carpet is seamed down the middle.

The problem, Trautner said, is that the floor on one side of your mobile home is a quarter inch higher than the other side.

He said he has told you he will pay any other carpet installer of your choice if they can fix the seam because he knows it can't be done.

If you are not convinced, you might wish to call (800) 835-4624, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, and ask for the name of a certified carpet inspector in your area.

Dispute settlement didn't take

When the No-Name storm blew boards off my utility shed, I ordered a replacement shed from Sears. They brought out a box and left it standing in the back yard for several months. Finally they put in a concrete slab and put the shed on it.

The shed leaked from the center of the roof (you could see daylight through the seams), and, since the slab was never sealed, it absorbed moisture, which condensed on everything inside the building.

Sears came back out to anchor the shed and treat the concrete, then they sent someone out to glue Styrofoam to the ceiling. The glue got wet, and the Styrofoam came down. The inside of the shed is still wet. _ Linda Wright

Response: The new shed and slab were paid for by your insurance company, said Sears Store Manager Don Kakara.

Although you were told it is almost impossible to keep a lawn building in Florida free of all moisture, you were not satisfied with Sears attempt to correct the problem, Kakara said, so Sears agreed to attend a Citizens Dispute Settlement meeting in February. After that meeting, Sears agreed to seal the outside of the building and install insulation on the roof.

You want a refund, Kakara said, and you have said you were so disgusted with the shed that you had your son tear it down. Because your insurance company paid the $874 for the shed, any refund would go to that company upon return of the merchandise, Kakara said.

If you did have the shed torn down, you would be unable to prove that it leaks, and you probably don't have anything to return to Sears. Have you discussed this with your insurance agent? That's probably your only recourse at this point.

Reaction

Thank you for getting me the "diamond" earrings I ordered. I sure learned my lesson _ never order another thing by mail. Nola Grauer

I received a check today for $17.90. I sent them $18.85, but I am satisfied with losing only 95 cents. Thanks. _ Oneita Johnson

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our voice mail system; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.

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