Decoding Food Dates

O ne news event you may have missed this month was that Tesco lost a judicial review over selling foods past their use-by date. All of this was over-ruled by judges, who decided that use-by dates were, overall, still important enough for public safety to be observed. This was, of course, all overshadowed, by the coronavirus outbreak; but the use-by date controversy has never been more up to date. As a species, we seem to have lost the ability to trust our own senses. This gets to the core of the matter. If you want a blanket rule for everyone, the use-by date is that rule. I can only tell you what I would eat. Erik Millstone, emeritus professor of science policy at the University of Sussex, lays out the ground rules: ignore sell-by dates.

Code Dates Decoded

In the event we need to bring product back or trace an issue with the production, the code date is our main source of information. We want to make sure we have the most accurate shelf life while still maintaining and communicating the utmost attention to food safety. It is important to note that the United States does not have a uniform system of coding expiration dates on food products, according to the U. Department of Agriculture. The federal government requires expiration dates only on baby foods and infant formula.

Other dating on food products is voluntary, and this is one reason why manufacturers use different terms and why similar products from different manufacturers may have completely different variations for their own date qualifiers.

pound packages of raw ground beef were incorrectly stored on the top Labeling and dating food Frozen meat with large ice crystals on the packaging.

PDF version. Are dates required on these food products? Does it mean the product will be unsafe to use after that date? Here is some background information answering these and other questions about product dating. What is Food Product Dating? Two types of product dating may be shown on a product label. The calendar date provides consumers with information on the estimated period of time for which the product will be of best quality and to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale.

Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by Federal regulations. For meat, poultry, and egg products under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Inspection Service FSIS , dates may be voluntarily applied provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and in compliance with FSIS regulations 2.

To comply, a calendar date must express both the month and day of the month. In the case of shelf-stable and frozen products, the year must also be displayed. Additionally, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as “Best if Used By. Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. How do Manufacturers Determine Quality Dates?

Expiration dates: Before you toss your food, read this

Product dating of meat and poultry is not required by Federal regulations. However, if a calendar date is used, it must express both the month and day of the month and the year, in the case of shelf-stable and frozen products. If a calendar date is shown, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as “sell by” or “use before. On the other hand, if a retailer puts the labels on products, they may be changed if the product remains wholesome.

There is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States.

You’ll see dates on many perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. But you might be surprised to learn that they aren’t.

There is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States. Depending on which food you are buying, the date on the package could be a recommendation on when it should be sold by or when it should be eaten by. Since confusion surrounding a date could mean throwing out perfectly good food, here are some tips about food package dates and storage for some common foods on your shopping list.

Open dating use of a calendar date is found primarily on the package of perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. Except for “use-by” dates, product dates don’t always refer to home storage and use after purchase. See the accompanying refrigerator charts for storage times of dated products. If product has a “use-by” date, follow that date.

If product has a “sell-by” date or no date, cook or freeze the product by the times on the chart below. Foods can develop an off odor, flavor or appearance due to spoilage bacteria.

Expiration Dates and Rework in Meat and Poultry Processing

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All perishable food products naturally contain bacteria. Spoilage bacteria multiply over time when products are not frozen and send off signals that tell a consumer that this product may not taste good when eaten. Spoilage bacteria may create an odor, like the smell of sour milk; they may make meat appear to be slippery or slimy; and they may cause a color change or cause mold to appear.

By contrast, the kind of bacteria that do cause serious foodborne illnesses are invisible and send no warning signs via odor or appearance. Rather, these types of harmful bacteria more likely result from cross contamination during handling or processing. In fact, a product that becomes contaminated with a pathogen could be weeks away from its expiration date yet very harmful to the person who eats it.

Fortunately, new technologies in plants and careful inspection procedures have reduced the presence of these bacteria on meat and poultry products and the illnesses associated with them, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the United States, different dating systems are used on products. Product dating is used to ensure that product is rotated properly during distribution and to ensure that the consumer has a positive eating experience.

The dates are designed to ensure that products are high quality for the consumer and have little, if anything, to do with food safety though they are often thought of in this manner.


Did you ever throw out a dozen eggs just because the carton said they were a few days past the expiration date? Have you tossed a box of uneaten onion soup mix for the same reason? Chucked an outdated can of corn?

Repackaging meats to extend their shelf life is illegal. Federal food regulations say the date on the label must reflect when the meat was originally.

Do I really need to throw food away by the date printed on the carton? If not, how long do I have before it really goes bad? Some people have a fear of snakes. Others are afraid of heights. For me, it’s spoiled food. I’m not claiming that this fear of mine is at all rational, but do I really need to be concerned?

Shelf-life: Best before and Use by Dates

Ever wonder why different food has different indicator dates on the package and what they mean? It can be really confusing to look at an indicator date on a package and see a variety of different terms. If there is a misunderstanding of what the date means, the safety of the food product and those consuming it could be compromised.

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Workplace dating: Pitfalls and policies

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Open dating is typically found on perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. After an open date passes, food may not be.

Back to Eat well. Food labels can help us choose a healthier diet and make sure our foods are safe to eat. Here’s a guide to some of the most common food labelling terms. But understanding all of that information is important if we’re to make use of it. For example, if a food product is labelled “light” or “lite” or has “no added sugar”, what does this mean? There are rules that food manufacturers must follow to prevent false claims or misleading descriptions, and there are clear guidelines on what labels on packets can and can’t show.

You’ll see “use by” dates on food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads. Don’t use any food or drink after the end of the “use by” date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine.

Roast beef

Many times the shelf-life of food is not so much a matter of safety as it is quality. We want food that is safe to eat as well as food that tastes good. Observing “sell-by,” “expiration” and “use-by” dates is recommended. But what do these terms mean?

Beef and pork. Cook or freeze within three to five days. Canned goods. Highly acidic foods like tomato sauce can keep 18 months or more. Low-acid foods like​.

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