Research shows that this phrase conveys to consumers that the product will be of best quality if used by the calendar date shown.
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.
Manufacturers and retailers will consider these factors when determining the date for which the product will be of best quality.
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.
Apparently, other terms such as “sell by” are more frequently interpreted as a date by which the food must be discarded because it has become unsafe.
FSIS does not provide further information about the research that forms the basis of their recommendation.
Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.
Consumers must evaluate the quality of the product prior to its consumption to determine if the product shows signs of spoilage. Open dating is found on most foods including meat, poultry, egg and dairy products.
"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.
[Top of Page] How do Manufacturers Determine Quality Dates?
Factors including the length of time and the temperature at which a food is held during distribution and offered for sale, the characteristics of the food, and the type of packaging will affect how long a product will be of optimum quality.