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When it comes to food, calendar dates relating to time and temperature are important and sometimes confusing.Terms we use are: 1) food product or code dating used for commercial food manufacturing and 2) date marking used for food prepared onsite in a restaurant.If a calendar date is shown, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as “sell by” or “use before.” Believe it or not, there is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States.Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states, there are areas of the country where much of the food supply has some type of open date and other areas where almost no food is dated. Open dating is found primarily on perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.With the support of environmentalists, food bank officials, and other food industry professionals, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced new legislation aimed at establishing a uniform federal food dating system.

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He said such a system would benefit consumers, food manufacturers and the nation's grocery stores, as well as food banks for the poor."Donating food is a tricky one for everyone in the food industry," Armstrong said, citing conflicting state regulations about how long an unsold food item can be safely given away to food banks."We welcome science-based regulation," Armstrong said.Blumenthal’s proposed legislation would require food industry manufacturers and retailers that use a date on labels to use the term “best if used by.”A study by Walmart found that this is the term consumers most easily understand when looking to know how long food will taste good.The legislation would also require an “expires on” date on the labels of high-risk foods, such as deli meats and hot dogs, to clearly indicate when consumers should not eat foods."Best if Used By" is a type of date you might find on a meat, poultry, or egg product label. Does it mean the product will be unsafe to use after that date?Here is some background information answering these and other questions about product dating. Two types of product dating may be shown on a product label.

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