Food Safety

What You Need to Know Today About Food Product Dating


With home cooking on the rise due to the recent COVID-19 quarantine, many people are taking the opportunity to clean their food storage areas and check the use-by dates on canned, dried and frozen products in pantries, refrigerators and freezers. However, due to lack of understanding, many consumers are unknowingly tossing out perfectly safe and wholesome food.

The USDA estimates “that 30 percent of the food supply is lost or wasted at the retail or consumer levels.  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.  Although not required by federal law, FSIS recommends that food manufacturers and retailers apply product dating (Best if used by) date to reduce consumer confusion.

Is this still ok?

This prompted us to take a look at current USDA Product Dating Requirements which can be found HERE.

Does Federal Law Require Product Dating?  Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by Federal regulations.  For meat, poultry and egg products under the jurisdiction of FSIS (Food Safety & Inspection Service), dates may voluntarily be applied provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading in compliance with FSIS regulations. To comply, a calendar date must express both the month and the day of the month.  In the case of shelf-stable and frozen products, the year must also be displayed.  Immediately adjacent to the date must be the phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as “Best if Used By.”

Are the dates for food safety or food quality? “Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of the best quality.  Except for infant formula, the dates are not an indicator of the products safety and are not required by Federal law.”

What’s the difference in the date-labelling phrases used? In the USA, there are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating.  You’ll find a wide variety such as:

  • A Best if Used By/Before date indicates when a product will be of the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A Sell-By date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
  • A Use-By date is the last recommended date for use of the product while a peak quality. It is not a safety date except when used on infant formula.
  • A Freeze-By date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Are Foods Safe to Eat After the Date Passes?  With the exception of infant formula, if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time of spoilage is evident.  Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor and appearance due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria.  If food has spoiled, it should not be eaten. Microorganisms such as molds, yeasts and bacteria can multiply and cause food to spoil.

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: pathogenic bacteria which causes foodborne illness, and spoilage bacteria which do not cause illness but do cause food to deteriorate and develop unpleasant characteristics such as an undesirable taste or odor making the food not wholesome.

What do Can Codes Mean?  Can codes are a type of closed dating which enable the tracing of product in interstate commerce.  They enable the manufacturer to rotate their stock and locate the product in case of a recall.  Can codes appear as a series of letters and/or numbers and refer to the date that the product was canned.  These codes are not meant for the consumer to interpret as a Best if Used By” date.

Cans must have a code or date of canning.  They may also display “Best if Used By” dates for peak quality.  If cans are dented, rusty, or swollen they should be thrown out.

In conclusion, when considering use of a product, consumers should understand that the dates applied are for quality and not for safety.  Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label but regardless of the date, consumers should always evaluate the quality of the food before consuming it.

Lily Noon



USDA Food Product Dating





米国政府による義務付けはあるのか? 乳児用調製乳を除き、日付表示は、米国の規制で義務付けられているわけではありません。FSISの管轄下にある肉類・鳥肉類、卵製品では、日付を自主的に表示することができます。ただし、FSISの規制に則って、正確かつ誤解のないように記載することが条件です。この規制に従うには、日付として、月と日の両方を記載しなければなりません。常温保存や冷凍保存ができる食品の場合は、年の記載も必要です。そして、日付のすぐ隣に、「賞味期限」をはじめ、日付の意味を説明する文言がなければなりません。

日付が示しているのは安全性か、品質か? FSISは、ウェブサイトで次のように説明しています。「メーカーは日付を表示して、いつまでであれば最善の品質が保たれるかを消費者と小売店が理解できるようにしています。乳児用調製乳を例外として、製品の日付は、安全性を示すものではなく、連邦法では義務付けられていません」。

日付表示に使われる文言の違いは? 米国では、統一的または普遍的に受け入れられている記載というのはなく、次のようにさまざまな文言が使われています。

  • Best If Used by(賞味期限):製品の味や品質が最善の期間を示しています。購入の期日や安全性が保たれる期日を示しているわけではありません。
  • Sell-By(販売期限):どれだけの期間にわたって製品を陳列棚に並べておくべきかを示しています。在庫管理の目的です。安全性が保たれる期日を示しているわけではありません。
  • Use-By(使用期限):最善の品質が保たれる間、いつまでに使用すべきかを勧告しています。乳児用調製乳の場合を除き、安全性が保たれる期日を示しているわけではありません。
  • Freeze-By(冷凍期限):最善の品質を保つために、いつまでに冷凍すべきかを示しています。購入の期日や安全性が保たれる期日を示しているわけではありません。

日付が過ぎた後も食べて安全なのか? 乳児用調製乳は例外ですが、自宅で保存している間に日付が過ぎても、適切に取り扱えば、腐敗が明らかになるまでは安全なはずです。  食べ物は、腐っていれば、悪臭を発し、風味や見た目も変わります。これは、自然に発生するバクテリアのせいです。  腐敗したものは食べるべきではありません。カビ、イースト(酵母)、バクテリアなどの微生物は、増殖して食品を腐敗させます。


缶詰のコードの意味は? 缶詰に記載されたコードは、関係者が内輪で使用する日付です。これにより、州境を越えて販売された場合に追跡できるようになります。メーカーは、この情報を頼りに、在庫を管理したり、回収が生じた場合に所在地を突き止めたりしています。缶詰コードは、一連の文字と数字で、その内容物が缶詰にされた日付を表わします。このコードは、消費者向けの「賞味期限」というわけではありません。





USDA Food Product Dating(米国農務省:食品の日付表示)

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