JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NBC News)- We all know about expiration dates on our food, but many parents don't realize there are expiration dates on their children's car safety seats. Allison Patton has three children and is expecting twins. Trying to control the cost of parenthood, she wanted to use an old car seat she purchased in 2003 but was told it may be expired — something that caught her by surprise."They don't tell you that at the store when you buy it. I never saw it on the package. I had never heard of it," Patton said. She checked the seat, and embedded into its plastic frame was a warning: Do not use this car seat after December 2008. "We are gonna have to destroy it," Patton said. "You can't put it on the curb; you put trash on the curb and it's gone." Lesley Seaton, a representative of SafeKids Northeast Florida, said there are common mistakes parents make with child child safety seats — including using expired ones. "They do expire," Seaton said. "It varies on different brands, the shelf life of a car seat." She said parents should always check the seat's user manual for an expiration date, or check the seat itself.
Child safety seats need to have a shelf life for a number of reasons. "The shell inside, that we can not see internally, can be broken down and worn out," Seaton explained. "The harness strap itself that holds the child in safely can be frayed and torn but look OK."Patton is now spreading the word to every mom like her: Check your child's car seat for an expiration date. "If you've had a kid within the past five years and you're just having another, you need to go and look at all your equipment," she said.