Food Product Dates


April 6, 2021 - <>, <> & Ashley Kuschel,

Two types of product dating may be found on food labels. “Open Dating” is applied by the manufacturer or retailer that alerts consumers to the best estimate of when the product will be of the best quality. Open dating can be found on most food items, including meat, poultry, egg and dairy products. “Closed Dating” is a series of letters and/or numbers applied to the product to identify the date and time it was produced. Closed dating is used on canned goods and other shelf stable products.

Sell By

  • Should be considered a retailer’s guide for how long to display the item for sale
  • Dates are selected knowing that the consumer may store or consume them a few days after purchase

Egg Carton Dating

  • Michigan’s egg law allows the use of “Sell-By” dates on egg cartons
  • For eggs bearing the USDA grade shield, the “Pack Date” is printed
  • “Sell-By” date must be 45 days or less from the “Pack Date”


  • Indicates when the food product should be frozen by in order to maintain its quality
  • "Use or Freeze-By" dates on perishable products, such as meat, are for quality and safety purposes

Use-By/Best Before/Best If Used By

  • Tells consumers how long the food item will be of its best flavor, color and quality
  • Fresh products should be consumed or frozen on or before the “Use-By” date

Pack Date

  • This is the date the item was packed or repackage
  • Fresh meat products can be refrigerated for up to 3 days beyond the “Pack Date”

Can Codes

  • Cans must have a code or the date of canning
  • Appears as a series of letters and/or numbers
  • Helps manufacturers rotate stock and locate products in the event of a food recall
  • Cans may also have “Best if Used By” dates


  • Required on infant formula and baby food
  • On other foods, it reflects product quality not safety
  • Manufacturers are shifting to "Best Before" dates to reduce food waste 



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