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When spoilage bacteria have nutrients (food), moisture, time, and favorable temperatures, these conditions will allow the bacteria to grow rapidly and affect the quality of the food.

Food spoilage can occur much faster if food is not stored or handled properly.

"Open Dating" is a calendar date applied to a food product by the manufacturer or retailer.

The calendar date provides consumers with information on the estimated period of time for which the product will be of best quality and to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale.

For example, sausage formulated with certain ingredients used to preserve the quality of the product or fresh beef packaged in a modified atmosphere packaging system that helps ensure that the product will stay fresh for as long as possible.

These products will typically maintain product quality for a longer period of time because of how the products are formulated or packaged.

[Top of Page] How do Manufacturers Determine Quality Dates?

With an exception of infant formula (described below), if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident (Chill Refrigerate Promptly).

Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria.

“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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