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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.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.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.“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?Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by Federal regulations.Manufacturers and retailers will consider these factors when determining the date for which the product will be of best quality.For example, sausage formulated with certain ingredients used to preserve the quality of the product or fresh beef packaged in a modified atmosphere packaging system that helps ensure that the product will stay fresh for as long as possible.

It is not an official legal edition of the Federal Register, and does not replace the official print version or the official electronic version on GPO’s

Research shows that this phrase conveys to consumers that the product will be of best quality if used by the calendar date shown.

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.

[Top of Page] Are Foods Safe to Eat After the Date Passes?

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).

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