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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."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.“Closed Dating” is a code that consists of a series of letters and/or numbers applied by manufacturers to identify the date and time of production.[Top of Page] Does Federal Law Require Food Product Dating?

The calendar date provides consumers with information on the estimated period of time for which the product will be of best quality and to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale.

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.

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.

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