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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.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.There are two types of bacteria that can be found on food: pathogenic bacteria, which cause foodborne illness, and spoilage bacteria, which cause foods to deteriorate and develop unpleasant characteristics such as an undesirable taste or odor making the food not wholesome, but do not cause illness.When spoilage bacteria have nutrients (food), moisture, time, and favorable temperatures, these conditions will allow the bacteria to grow rapidly and affect the quality of the food.
For meat, poultry, and egg products under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), dates may be voluntarily applied provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and in compliance with FSIS regulations.
[Top of Page] Can Food be Donated After the Date Passes? The quality of perishable products may deteriorate after the date passes but the products should still be wholesome if not exhibiting signs of spoilage.
Food banks, other charitable organizations, and consumers should evaluate the quality of the product prior to its distribution and consumption to determine whether there are noticeable changes in wholesomeness (Food Donation Safety Tips). Consumption by this date ensures the formula contains not less than the quantity of each nutrient as described on the label.
"Open Dating" is a calendar date applied to a food product by the manufacturer or retailer.
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.