<a href="mailto: dvsavini@cbs.com; mhlebeau@cbs.com; mayoungerman@cbs.com" target="_blank">Send Your Tips To Dave Savini</a>By Dave Savini

(CBS) — Shoppers rely on “sell-by” dates when they purchase meat at their grocery store. But a CBS 2 investigation shows one Chicago area store sold meat products -– some of it sticky and darkening — after the dates on packages had expired.

CBS 2’s Dave Savini reports.

The meat products were sold at Cermak Fresh Market in Naperville, after the sell-by dates had expired. Store officials concede several pieces the 2 Investigators were able to buy should have been thrown out.

Among them: round steak with a sell-by date of April 12 was still on the shelves on April 17. Also, ground beef, porterhouse, skirt steaks and chorizo sausage all were sold with expired sell-by dates.

During CBS 2’s interview with a store manager, workers started checking more dates and pulling meat from the shelves.

“There are a lot of packages out here,” the manager said. “Sometimes it slips through the cracks.”

The Naperville store is one of Cermak’s nine corporate-owned Chicago area stores in its chain.

Kantha Shelke, a food safety specialist, says sell-by dates help protect shoppers from food-borne illness.

“The consumer trusts the retailer,” she says. “Selling after the date is a very, very dangerous practice, particularly for children and for the elderly.”

An assistant manager at Cermak admitted they did not follow the law with meat CBS 2 handed over to them.

One of worse mistakes was a deli ham sold to CBS 24 days after the date on the package expired.

Last year, three other Cermak locations in Chicago — 3033 S. Halsted; 5220 S. Pulaski and 4234 N. Kedzie — failed health department inspections. All had rodent- or insect-related violations, sanitation and food-handling and storage violations.

“We are very concerned about it,” a store manager said.

When it comes to sell-by dates, at any grocery store, store operators decide what date to use. A sell-by date violation occurs only when the sold food is not fit for human consumption.

A Cermak lawyer thanked CBS 2 for bringing the matter to the chain’s attention. He says safeguards are being put in place and an audit is underway to ensure violations do not occur. Past health code violations at all stores have been corrected, he said.

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