Food Product Dating Food Safety and Inspection Service

This management bulletin (MB) provides guidance regarding the storage and inventory management of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foods and clarifies USDA Policy Memorandum FD-657: Donated Food Storage, Distribution, and Product Dating (Revised), dated November 76, 7567, which is on the USDA Food Distribution Policy Web page at. This MB supersedes MB USDA-FDP-57-7565: Storage and Inventory Management of USDA Donated Foods dated August 7565. Product dates found on retail and USDA Foods are not federally regulated and can have a variety of definitions. Food manufacturers may voluntarily provide dates to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality, but these dates are not an indicator of wholesomeness or food safety.

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Factors including the length of time and temperature food is held during storage, the characteristics of the food, and the type of packaging will affect how long a product will remain at optimum quality. However products marked with the earliest best-if-used-by date, best-if-used-before date, etc. Should be used first, even if those items were received after a similar item in inventory. RAs should maintain records of when products are received and exercise effective inventory management and proper storage practices to ensure freshness. For further guidance and regulatory requirements, refer to 7 CFR, Section 755. 69(b). The following sections clarify the meaning of date codes that may be found on USDA Foods in accordance with guidance provided by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Any of the following date codes could appear on retail or USDA Foods however, they are not directly related to food safety. If handled improperly, the foods could lose quality prior to the date marked on the package. Most importantly, RAs should consume all USDA Foods before product end dates have passed. A pack code, date of pack, or manufacturing date is a series of letters and/or numbers that indicates when the product was packaged, processed, or manufactured. For example, some USDA Foods, such as canned items, may contain manufacturing dates, which indicate when the products were produced. Certain USDA Foods fruits and vegetables, such as canned or frozen peaches, pears, green beans, and corn, may contain pack codes or a date of pack. Foods with pack codes or a date of pack are canned shortly after harvest and may be delivered throughout the following year or until the next harvest season.

Thus, RAs may receive product packed or manufactured in the previous year (e. G. , product packed in September 7567 may be delivered in July 7568). Packing or manufacturing dates should not be interpreted the same as best-if-used-by or best-if-used before dates. While they may help determine the age of a product, these codes do not necessarily provide useful information on product wholesomeness or nutritional value. For products that only have packing or manufacturing dates rather than best-if-used-by dates, RAs should maintain records of when products are received and exercise effective inventory management and proper storage practices to ensure USDA Foods are consumed in a timely manner and in optimal condition. Certain types of USDA Foods such as dried fruits, grain products, yogurt, and string cheese are more sensitive to storage conditions. If handled improperly, these items may spoil prior to the dates voluntarily marked on cases or containers. Please refer to the USDA Foods fact sheets for specific storage requirements for these types of USDA Foods, which are on the USDA Food Distribution Web page at. Out-of-condition foods are foods that are no longer fit for human consumption as a result of spoilage, contamination, infestation, adulteration, or damage. If there are no visible defects but there is a question as to the wholesomeness of the foods, RAs must have the foods inspected by local health authorities, as necessary, to ensure the foods are still safe. If it is determined the out-of-condition foods are USDA Foods, RAs must follow food recall and complaints procedures, as applicable, and ensure that out-of-condition USDA Foods are removed, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of, in accordance with 7 CFR, Section 755. 65, USDA instruction and local requirements pertaining to food safety and health. Information on food product dating are found on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Product Dating Web page atInformation on how to file a USDA Foods complaint is on the USDA Food Distribution Program Web page at and on the California Department of Education Food Distribution Program MB 59-955:

General Food Labeling Requirements CDPH Home

USDA Commodity Complaints Web page at. Food waste is a hot topic quickly moving into the political mainstream, largely because it touches so many issues at once the environment, hunger, household budgets and the overall economy. Now, proposed legislation from Assemblyman, D-San Francisco, aims to address the issue by changing one simple but crucial thing: the expiration dates on food. As of now, shoppers see myriad versions of expiration dates indicated on packages of food, be it fresh ground beef or a can of chili. Common verbiage includes best by, freshest by, sell by or any number of other similar phrases. With the exception of infant formula, none of these dates is federally regulated, and all are determined by the manufacturer. In the majority of cases, the dates indicate the manufacturer s best guess as to when product is at best quality and don t have anything to do with safety, even with that suspect carton of milk. As a result, consumers regularly throw away expired, yet usually safe, food. Chiu s proposal (AB7775) would require manufacturers to give food one of two labels in California: Best if used by would indicate when a food will be at its best quality, and expires on would be used solely on highly perishable foods. The latter would signify the date that they should no longer be eaten. AB7775 would make California the first state to have such legislation in the country, though Rep. , D-Maine, has been working on similar legislation nationally.

This addresses the everyday experience that we all have, when we look at our refrigerator at dozens of products and have to decide if we should throw out products that may still be good but have different expiration labels, said Chiu. Americans waste as much as 95 percent of food, which in the household can amount to 75 pounds per person per month. Food waste experts estimate that even reducing the amount of food waste by 85 percent could feed every hungry American, including the 6 million Californians who don t have enough to eat, if that food was distributed properly. We want to address the dating-label confusion to make situations that are better for consumers, businesses and the environment and particularly the millions of people that go hungry every night, said Chiu. As of now, infant formula is the only food with a required expiration date nationally, and that indicates only when its nutrient level drops, not when it s no longer safe. Different states have laws requiring certain labels for specific foods, such as dairy products and shellfish in California, but they re highly inconsistent. In some states, though not in California, retailers and food banks cannot sell or donate food past its sell-by date, even when it s perfectly fine to eat. The list of foods that will require the expires on label meaning that food safety is an issue will be determined by the. That list will likely be fairly short, experts say. Generally speaking, people don t get sick from food because it s aging, said, staff scientist in the food and agriculture program at the, a co-sponsor of the bill. Instead, food makes people sick because it was contaminated with E. Coli, salmonella or other pathogens and time won t make a difference in most cases. As long as the food s handled properly and kept refrigerated, most things don t grow, said Gunders. One dangerous pathogen that does grow, however, is listeria, which is a threat particularly to pregnant women and the immune-compromised.

Products with a higher risk of listeria include deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses and sausages that are not fully cooked or reheated. (As long as foods are cooked, listeria pathogens are killed. )Surprisingly, foods such as pasteurized milk and fresh chicken are not a major safety risk from aging, said Gunders. Pasteurized dairy products have been heated to kill pathogens, and you can assume you ll cook raw meat. That s why, founder of Food Runners, regularly goes to supermarkets to pick up products past their expiration date to donate to over 855 group homes, recovery centers, food banks and soup kitchens. The list of donated foods includes vacuum-packed meats, milk, produce and breads. Though some food banks have policies that prevent them from giving away food past its sell-by date, that hasn t been a problem for the agencies Risley partners with. Having worked in this area for decades, she has a fairly cynical view of expiration dates, since they re determined by the manufacturer. In my opinion, of course they want to sell more milk so they put a shorter date on it, she said. We think David Chiu is a hero for doing this. Chiu expects the bill to face some opposition, even though it will not require much in the way of added costs, he said. According to a recent report called Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data, the country loses $768 billion to food waste annually, and standardizing expiration dates could divert around 898,555 tons of food from landfills. It s something that industry is aware of as an issue because it impacts their bottom line, said Chiu. Everybody up and down the food chain understands that this is an issue that we need to address.

Here are some examples of the types of labels you might see on products now, which are all assigned by manufacturers. Most are determined by quality, not safety.

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