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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 cause foodborne illness, and spoilage bacteria, which do not cause illness but do cause foods to deteriorate and develop unpleasant characteristics such as an undesirable taste or odor making the food not wholesome.If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.Microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, and bacteria can multiply and cause food to spoil."Closed or coded dates" are a series of letters and/or numbers and typically appear on shelf-stable products such as cans and boxes of food. There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States.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.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?

In the case of shelf-stable and frozen products, the year must also be displayed.

Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by Federal regulations.

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.

“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?

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