Commercial food product dating
One package might have a "sell by" date, another a "best before" date, and yet another, a "use by" date. 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. "Because the expiration date is not indicative of product quality if storage conditions have been less than optimal, the FDA does not require expiration dates on most products," said Michael L. Herndon said that even the dates required on infant formula are "use by" dates, not "expiration" dates.Some products even use what is called a Julian Date, which is perfectly understandable as long as you're a mathematician. In other words, almost all food dating relates to the quality of the product, not its safety."The quality characteristics of foods (taste, aroma and appearance -- as distinct from safety characteristics) often depend in great part on good storage conditions: temperature and humidity control in the retail store and warehouse," Herndon said.Although 20 states do have regulations concerning product dating, most dates are only guidelines and strictly advisory in nature.
In a restaurant at the receiving step or the retail food store as a consumer, “Sell by July 14” is a type of information you might find on a meat or poultry product. Does it mean the product will be unsafe to use after that date?Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states, there are areas of the country where much of the food supply has some type of open date and other areas where almost no food is dated. Open dating is found primarily on perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.“Closed” or “coded” dating might appear on shelf-stable products such as cans and boxes of food.It can also help the purchaser to know the time limit to purchase or use the product at its best quality. 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.” Believe it or not, there is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States.not for sale), see Bringing Food for Personal Use for more information.