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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.

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.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.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."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).

[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.

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.