Interpreting Dates on Food Products (cont.)
What Types of Food Are Dated?
Open dating is found primarily on perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. "Closed" or "coded" dating might appear on shelf-stable products such as cans and boxes of food.
Types of Dates
Safety After Date Expires
Except for "use-by" dates, product dates don't always refer to home storage
and use after purchase. "Use-by" dates usually refer to best quality and are not
safety dates. But even if the date expires during home storage, a product should
be safe, wholesome and of good
Foods can develop an off odor, flavor or appearance due to spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such characteristics, you should not use it for quality reasons.
If foods are mishandled, however, foodborne bacteria can grow and cause
Other examples of potential mishandling are products that have been: defrosted at room temperature more than two hours; cross contaminated; or handled by people who don't use proper sanitary practices. Make sure to follow the handling and preparation instructions on the label to ensure top quality and safety.
Dating Formula & Baby Food
Federal regulations require a "use-by" date on the product label of infant formula and the varieties of baby food under FDA inspection. If consumed by that date, the formula or food must contain not less than the quantity of each nutrient as described on the label. Formula must maintain an acceptable quality to pass through an ordinary bottle nipple. If stored too long, formula can separate and clog the nipple.
Dating of baby food is for quality as well as for nutrient retention. Just as you might not want to eat stale potato chips, you wouldn't want to feed your baby meat or other foods that have an off flavor or texture.