An open date on a food product is a date stamped by the manufacturer on a product’s package to ensure quality. An open date must be clearly visible to retail consumers. Open dates are most commonly found on perishable foods.
Examples of open dating include
- Sell-by date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.
- Best if used by (or before) date is recommended for best flavor or quality.
- Use-by date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality.
- Pull date or expiration date means the recommended date the food should be pulled from sale allowing the consumer time for normal home consumption or the date the food should no longer be offered for sale or sold as fresh.
- Packing date means the date specifying the time a perishable food was packaged in its final form for sale to the consumer.
Closed or coded dating
Julian date coding is a popular method for dating non-perishable (shelf-stable) food products like canned goods, boxed cereals, dried pasta or beans, cookies, and crackers. It represents the number of days elapsed since the beginning of the calendar year. For example, a Julian date of 031 represents January 31st and a Julian date of 365 represents December 31st.
Food quality versus food safety
The quality of a food typically refers to the peak flavor, texture, or color of the food, but it is generally not a safety issue.
- Non-perishable (shelf-stable) foods are generally safe to be eaten past the expiration or pull date.
- Perishable foods (could spoil without temperature control) cannot be sold past the expiration of the pull date unless they are segregated and clearly identified as having an expired open pull date. Also, the food must still be fit for human consumption.
Additionally, you can always call the manufacturer if you have further questions about a particular perishable or non-perishable product.