Before you get in your car, you toss one of those bags in the garbage. Sound ridiculous? Consumer uncertainty about the meaning of the dates that appear on the labels of packaged foods is believed to contribute to about 20 percent of food waste in the home. Studies have shown that this best conveys to consumers that these products do not have to be discarded after the date if they are stored properly. Department of Agriculture involves educating consumers on ways to reduce food loss and waste, and how to do it safely without risking illness from consuming spoiled food. Manufacturers generally apply date labels at their own discretion and for a variety of reasons. The most common is to inform consumers and retailers of the date up to which they can expect the food to retain its desired quality and flavor. The key exception to this general rule is for infant formula products. Date labels are generally not required on packaged foods.
How to Read Food Expiration Date Codes
According to the U. More than 20 states require dating of certain foods, but other states do not require any food dating. With the exceptions of infant formula and some baby food, product dating is not generally required by Federal regulations. If an open date is shown on a product, both the month and day of the month and year for shelf-stable and frozen products must be displayed on the product packaging.
The date does not correspond to the date by which the product must be consumed to ensure food safety; rather, the date is indicated for product quality. Open dating is typically found on perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Non-Food or General Merchandise. Shall print a Closed Date Code: A code that consists of a series of letters and/or numbers applied by.
Date marks give a guide to how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate or may become unsafe to eat. The two types of date marking are use by dates and best before dates. The food supplier is responsible for placing a use by or best before date on food. Foods that must be eaten before a certain time for health or safety reasons should be marked with a use by date. Most foods have a best before date. You can still eat foods for a while after the best before date as they should be safe but they may have lost some quality.
Foods that have a best before date can legally be sold after that date provided the food is fit for human consumption. The only food that can have a different date mark on it is bread, which can be labelled with a baked on or baked for date if its shelf life is less than seven days. Foods that have a shelf life of two years or longer, e. This is because it is difficult to give the consumer an accurate guide as to how long these foods will keep, as they may retain their quality for many years and are likely to be consumed well before they spoil.
If specific storage conditions are required in order for a product to keep until its best before or use by date, suppliers must include this information on the label, e.
Date labelling on pre-packaged foods
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. Or did they?
There are two types of codes: Lot Code: When manufacturers produce a product, they do so in batches. Each batch is assigned a unique series of.
A health-conscious consumer is one who reads food labels before making a purchase, but what do all those numbers mean? While it’s easy to figure out the basic stuff — like calories and nutritional content – there’s a lot of other information on food labels that can be helpful, especially numbers and dates stamped on the bottom of cereals, canned goods, packaged snacks and even fresh produce. According to the Institute of Food Technologists , most U.
There are two types of codes:. There is little government regulation when it comes to expiration dates stamped on packages. Therefore, don’t treat expiration dates or lot codes with a “one-size fits all” approach, the Institute says.
A Lesson in Food Product Dating
Date code listings below One of the most frequently asked questions about canned food is its shelf life and “use-by” dates. The codes that are stamped on canned food are manufacturers’ codes that usually designate the date the product was packaged. The codes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and usually include coding for time and place of canning.
Food date labels are there to help consumers make informed and safe decisions about the products they are purchasing. Depending on what type of food you are buying, the date on the package can tell you when it should be eaten by, and when it should be sold by. Open dating calendar dates are normally found on the package of perishable foods such as meat, poultry and eggs.
Closed or coded dates are likely to appear on shelf products such as cans and boxes of food. It is usually used on perishables foods like meat, seafood, poultry and milk. As a consumer you should always purchase products well before their date expires. They are mostly on food products that can go off quickly, or which are perishable and can present a risk of food poisoning.
Food cannot be sold after the use by date has passed. Anything that goes over the best before date may still be safe to eat, but may not be at its best quality. Packing codes These codes are a series of letters or numbers on food packaging, they can occasionally indicate the date or time of manufacture. The code will help food manufacturers and suppliers to rotate their stock and quickly locate products in the event of there being a recall.
Storage conditions If a food needs to be stored in a specific way for it to retain its quality, then those instructions must be included on the packaging.
I don’t see an expiration date. How do I know if my product is expired?
Low-acid canned goods keep their quality longer than high-acid ones. Credit: AP. How do you decipher date codes on canned food and, if you manage to decipher them, how long after the date is it safe to eat the food? This question was a follow-up to my recent column on the difference between the “sell by” and “use by” dates that are found on packaged food.
Both are examples of what the industry calls “open dating,” easily interpreted information found on such perishable products as meat, eggs and dairy. In contrast, manufacturers of canned and boxed foods — which have much longer shelf lives — often use “closed dating” or “coded dating,” which must be deciphered to be understood.
Information about dates on pre-packaged food is a valuable source of information for consumers.
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.
If a food has developed such characteristics, do not eat it. If foods are mishandled, however, food-borne bacteria can grow and cause food-borne illness — before or after the date on the package. For example, if food that requires refrigeration is taken to a picnic and left out several hours, it might not be safe if used thereafter, even if the date hasn’t expired.
Canned Food, Shelf Life
July 27, – Author: Joyce McGarry. These numbers can cause confusion, and often deciphering them can be like solving a mystery. The consumer can easily read an open date.
Open dating is found primarily on perishable foods such as meat, poultry, “Closed” or “coded” dating might appear on shelf-stable products such as cans and boxes of food. There is no book which tells how to translate the codes into dates.
Do the dates on food packages puzzle you? What about those letters and numbers? If you are confused or puzzled— you are not alone. There is no uniform or universally accepted system for food dating in the U. However, Washington law does require that foods that spoil within 30 days, including milk, cottage cheese, and eggs carry a pull date by which they are to be sold. This sell by date represents the last day to sell the product so you will have time to store and use it at home safely.
In addition, some manufacturers choose to add dates on products such as snacks and cookies even though they are not required. The dates alone are not a guarantee but they can be a helpful guideline. What does the date mean? Stores must remove these products by the date listed.