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Open Dates on Food: What Parents Should Know

​Package dating on labels provides a measure of a product’s freshness.

Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate most package dating, FDA food labeling law and regulations require that such information is truthful and not misleading.

What Are Open Dates?

Open dates are calendar dates that are imprinted or stamped on a food label that indicate to the consumer the freshness and safety of the product. Open dates are stated alpha-numerically (eg, Oct 15) or numerically (eg, 10-15 or 1015).

An Open Date Might be Featured As:

  1. Pull or “sell by” date: This is the last day that the manufacturer recommends sale of the product. Usually, the date allows for additional storage and use time at home.
  2. Freshness or quality assurance date: This date suggests how long the manufacturer believes the food will remain at peak quality. The label might read, “Best if used by October 2007.” However, the product may be used after this date. A “freshness date” has a different meaning than the word “fresh” printed on the label, which often suggests that a food is raw or unprocessed.
  3. Pack date: The date when the food was packaged or processed.
  4. Expiration date: The last day the product should be eaten. State governments regulate these dates for perishable foods, such as milk and eggs. The FDA requires expiration dates on infant formula.

Additional Information:

Last Updated
Pediatric Environmental Health, 3rd Edition (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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