Expiration dates can be hard to locate on a product and even more challenging to decipher. Currently, the United States does not have a regulated or standard system for coding expiration dates on food, except for those on baby food and infant formula. All other dates and codes are added voluntarily by manufacturers. There are two types of expiration date codes on products. The first type is open dating, which uses a standard time or calendar date. Use-by dates are intended for consumers and indicate when a product will start to deteriorate, while the latter two are for grocery stores to know how long to keep products displayed on the shelves. Typically, products are good for seven to ten days past their sell-by or pull-by dates. However, this is only a guideline.
Cornell Cooperative Extension
An assessment by the Office of Technology Assessment OTA that analyzes “consumers’ perspectives on open-date labeling; benefits and costs; alternative systems and techniques; alternative criteria and scientific tests to establish open dates; enforcement mechanisms and liability related to open-date labeling; and options available to Congress” p. United States. Office of Technology Assessment. August
Baked goods, cereals, snacks, frozen entrees and some canned food will have freshness dating. The food is safe to eat after this date. Though, that three-year-old.
I was one confused consumer one night last week. Late at night and hungry, I opened the freezer door to find a lone microwave dinner. Printed on the carton was a “Use By” date, and it was now almost two month’s past that date. Suddenly, visions of past problems of spinach and cookie dough danced in my head. There I was, a grown man staring at that “use by” date and thinking, “Will eating this mean a trip to the emergency room? At least I knew that I wasn’t alone.
Millions of consumers experience the confusion of product dating, primarily because it is confusing. One package might have a “sell by” date, another a “best before” date, and yet another, a “use by” date. Some products even use what is called a Julian Date, which is perfectly understandable as long as you’re a mathematician. It would be much easier if the U. Department of Agriculture USDA required product manufacturers to print a simple sentence on each product, maybe something like: “If you consume this product after this date, you’re gonna regret it.
Except for infant formula and some baby food, USDA regulations do not generally require product dating. And as for the FDA, widely seen as the nation’s primary enforcer of food and drug safety laws, it largely stays out of food dating. Herndon of the FDA.
Understanding Dates on Food Labels
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.
PRODUCT DATING. Many people are confused about how long to keep a product after its date has passed. It can be difficult to help people understand the food.
Food packaging contains a wealth of information to help you decide which foods to choose to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are two types of dating that usually are displayed on a food product: “Open Dating” and “Closed Dating. Except for infant formulas, product dates are not expiration dates. They indicate when a product should be used for best quality.
The terms “sell by,” “best by” and “use by,” may give you a reference for how long a food might last but learning more about the difference between these terms can help reduce the amount of food waste in the home and improve your food safety knowledge. This is because foodborne pathogens can contaminate foods that aren’t properly stored and handled. Bacteria may leave noticeable signs of food spoilage such as mold or unusual tastes and odors. These foods should not be eaten.
To properly store and handle foods, always wash your hands , separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat items, cook food to proper temperatures and refrigerate edible items promptly. Check the shelf life of foods with the free app, Is My Food Safe?
Open Shelf-Life Dating of Food
When it comes to food, calendar dates relating to time and temperature are important and sometimes confusing. Terms we use are: 1 food product or code dating used for commercial food manufacturing and 2 date marking used for food prepared onsite in a restaurant. Are dates required on food products? Does it mean the product will be unsafe to use after that date?
The dating game: When food goes bad a variety of measures that researchers have developed, or are assessing, for different food items.
It is also an FDA requirement that you maintain accurate labeling of your food in your kitchen. Learning how to label food correctly is a practice that will have long term benefits for your commercial kitchen as well as for your restaurant patrons.
The dating game: When food goes bad
It can also help the purchaser to know the time limit to purchase or use the product at its best quality. It is not a safety date. Cans must exhibit a packing code to enable tracking of the product in interstate commerce. This enables manufacturers to rotate their stock as well as to locate their products in the event of a recall. There is no book or web site that tells how to translate the codes into dates.
Types of Dated Food. Open dating (use of a calendar date) is found primarily on the package of perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
Foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely. Follow safe food handling recommendations on relationship labels. For fresh or poly products, USDA recommends the following storage dates after purchase: Cooked Julian:Food packaging contains a food of information to help you decide which relationships to choose to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are two types of dating that usually are displayed on a food product: Except for infant formulas, product relationships are not expiration dates.
They indicate when a product should be used for polyamorous quality. The terms “sell by,” “best by” and “use more,” may give you a reference for how long a food might last but learning polyamorous about the difference between these terms can help reduce the amount of food waste in the expiration and improve your food safety knowledge. This is because poly pathogens can contaminate foods that aren’t properly stored and handled.
If you have diarrhea after eating eggs, you may be wondering if your eggs are bad. Although the expiration date code on your carton of eggs and other packaged foods may provide some clues, these dates are more about food quality than food safety. When you’re looking through your kitchen cupboard for a can of unsweetened cocoa so you can make chocolate zucchini muffins or some other treat, you may come across a few items you forgot about.
When you look at the expiration date codes on the back, you may be surprised and possibly embarrassed to learn that the items in your cupboard expired over a year ago.
Manufacturer cannot guarantee the nutritional value of these products after the date. Page 2. Dairy and Cooler Items. Refrigerated. Frozen. Butter.
Employee mixed chemical in sweet tea thinking it was sugar, woman in critical condition. This recent news headline shows just how important it is to label food and non-food items in your kitchen. Any food that is not in its original packaging must be labeled. Think about all of the foods that could easily be mistaken for one another: salt could be used in place of sugar or baking powder in place of flour.
Always make sure chemicals are labeled and kept in a closet, or in a separate area away from food. In addition to labeling, dating items requires special attention. All foods that require time and temperature control TCS should be labeled with the following:.
Nothing Simple about Food Dating, Expiration Dates or ‘Use-By’ Dates
Waterborne Illness Waterborne illness is caused by recreational or drinking water contaminated by disease-causing microbes or pathogens. Of note, many waterborne pathogens can also be acquired by consuming contaminated food or beverages, from contact with animals or their environment, or through person-to-person spread. Learn what you can do to prepare, serve and store food safely. If you have questions or comments about this page, please use our Food Safety Comment Form.
Shelf Storage Tips for storing food properly to help prevent foodborne illness.
The sell by date tells the store up to what date a food item can remain on the shelf to be sold. Also, perishable foods can last longer if they are.
Dating and labeling potentially hazardous foods is an important part of maintaining quality and preventing foodborne illness. Even if food is held at the proper temperatures, bacteria will still grow but at a lesser rate. After food is prepared, label the container with the name of the product, the date it was made, and who prepared it. Make sure someone is responsible for checking container dates for proper food rotation and discarding any food that has gone beyond 7 days e.
Be sure not to overprep or overcook food products as this might lead to waste and increased food cost. Only cook enough to meet demand for a week at the most. Date marking food is a must for preventing foodborne illness; however, note that there are exceptions. The list below references some of the most commonly mishandled foods when it comes to date marking.
Once familiar with these exceptions, kitchen staff can be more confident and proactive in knowing which foods are expired and which need labeling. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.