Since 1972, FSIS has required poultry products to include a date
of packing, either as a calendar date or a code (9
CFR Section 381.126). FSIS has permitted the use of a sell-by or use-by date
in lieu of the required date of packing.
There is no regulation requiring meat products to have a
calendar date. However, if a federally inspected establishment has voluntarily
placed a calendar date on meat products, such a date can not be removed or
changed by a retailer while the product remains in its original packaging. If a
calendar date is used on labeling for either meat or poultry, a phrase
explaining the meaning of such date, in terms of "packing" date, "sell by" date,
or "use before" date, must be right next to it.
A food retailer may not modify these "packing/pack" or
"sell-by/use-by" dates on the original packaging of meat or poultry products
packaged under Federal inspection, even if the date has been placed voluntarily.
However, if a retailer places a calendar date on meat or poultry products that
did not bear a date originally, there is no Federal regulation that would
prevent a retailer from changing the date on products that remain wholesome.
State or local jurisdictions, however, may have a requirement that bars changing
these dates at the retail level.