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