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The quality of perishable products may deteriorate after the date passes, however, such products should still be safe if handled properly.Consumers must evaluate the quality of the product prior to its consumption to determine if the product shows signs of spoilage. Open dating is found on most foods including meat, poultry, egg and dairy products."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.As a result, there are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates. 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.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).Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.[Top of Page] How do Manufacturers Determine Quality Dates?
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.These codes also enable manufacturers to rotate their stock and locate their products in the event of a recall. tomatoes and fruits) will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months. meats and vegetables) will keep for two to five years.Codes appear as a series of letters and/or numbers and refer to the date the product was canned. Usually these are "Best if Used By" dates for peak quality. Additional information on food canning and the handling of canned foods may be found at Shelf-Stable Food Safety.It is also based on the conditions of handling, storage, preparation, and use printed on the label.Do not buy or use baby formula after its "Use- By" date. Packing codes are a type of closed dating which enable the tracking of product in interstate commerce.