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Food Product Dating

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. Herndon said that even the dates required on infant formula are "use by" dates, not "expiration" dates. Although 20 states do have regulations concerning product dating, most dates are only guidelines and strictly advisory in nature. This means that every consumer should have a basic understanding of food product dating and safety.

However, Bucknavage suggested a few guidelines on years of testing. High acid canned products such as tomatoes or citrus products like grapefruit juice wont last as long due to the high acid content," Bucknavage said. With meat and poultry, eat or freeze it within two days of the purchase date, Bucknavage recommends. Additionally, pay close attention to any date listed on luncheon meat.

Although the date relates primarily to quality and not safety, luncheon meat can carry an organism called listeria. This organism can slowly grow at refrigeration temperatures and can have deadly effects on people with a suppressed immune system. Eggs can last 5 weeks past the date on the carton, but only if they are stored properly.

Where do many of us keep the eggs? In those little egg holders on the door -- the same door that is exposed to warm air every time we open the fridge. Much better to keep your eggs in their original carton and place the carton on a shelf in the back of your refrigerator. Your refrigerator should be kept between 33 and 40 degrees preferably 36 degrees and the only way to monitor accurately the temp is with a thermometer. With canned goods, it's possible the date has nothing to do with the product but everything to do with the can. Furthermore, even if the product is not outdated, there can be issues with the can.

Best if used by or before date is recommended for best flavor or quality. Use-by date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. Packing date means the date specifying the time a perishable food was packaged in its final form for sale to the consumer. Closed or coded dating. There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States. As a result, there are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates. USDA estimates food loss and waste at 30 percent of the food supply lost or wasted at the retail and consumer levels 2.

One source of food waste arises from consumers or retailers throwing away wholesome food because of confusion about the meaning of dates displayed on the label. 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. Research shows that this phrase conveys to consumers that the product will be of best quality if used by the calendar date shown.

Decoding Food Product Dates

Foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled "Best if Used By" date. Safety After Date Passes With an exception of infant formula described below , if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident Chill Refrigerate Promptly.

Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten. Microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, and bacteria can multiply and cause food to spoil.

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Viruses are not capable of growing in food and do not cause spoilage. There are two types of bacteria that can be found on food: When spoilage bacteria have nutrients food , moisture, time, and favorable temperatures, these conditions will allow the bacteria to grow rapidly and affect the quality of the food. Food spoilage can occur much faster if it is not stored or handled properly.

A change in the color of meat or poultry is not an indicator of spoilage The Color of Meat and Poultry. The quality of perishable products may deteriorate after the date passes but the products should still be wholesome if not exhibiting signs of spoilage.

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Food banks, other charitable organizations, and consumers should evaluate the quality of the product prior to its distribution and consumption to determine whether there are noticeable changes in wholesomeness Food Donation Safety Tips. Dating Infant Formula Federal regulations require a "Use-By" date on the product label of infant formula under inspection of the U. Consumption by this date ensures the formula contains not less than the quantity of each nutrient as described on the label.

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. It is also based on the conditions of handling, storage, preparation, and use printed on the label.

Cracking the Date Code on Egg Cartons

Do not buy or use baby formula after its "Use- By" date. What Do Can Codes Mean? Packing codes are a type of closed dating which enable the tracking of product in interstate commerce. These codes also enable manufacturers to rotate their stock and locate their products in the event of a recall. The codes are not meant for the consumer to interpret as a "Best if Used By" date.


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Cans must exhibit a code or the date of canning. Cans may also display "open" or calendar dates. Usually these are "Best if Used By" dates for peak quality.

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