Purpose dating

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.

Factors including the length of time and the temperature at which a food is held during distribution and offered for sale, the characteristics of the food, and the type of packaging will affect how long a product will be of optimum quality.

Manufacturers and retailers will consider these factors when determining the date for which the product will be of best quality.

[Top of Page] Dating Infant Formula Federal regulations require a "Use-By" date on the product label of infant formula under inspection of the U. Formula must maintain an acceptable quality to pass through an ordinary bottle nipple.

The "Use-By" date is selected by the manufacturer, packer or distributor of the product on the basis of product analysis throughout its shelf life, tests, or other information.

"Closed or coded dates" are a series of letters and/or numbers and typically appear on shelf-stable products such as cans and boxes of food. There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States.

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.

"Best if Used By" is a type of date you might find on a meat, poultry, or egg product label. 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. Two types of product dating may be shown on a product label.

Additionally, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as "Best if Used By." [Top of Page] Are Dates for Food Safety or Quality?

Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality.

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To reduce consumer confusion and wasted food, FSIS recommends that food manufacturers and retailers that apply product dating use a "Best if Used By" date.

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