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Script: Understanding Food Product Dating

 

Podcasts
Script: Understanding Food Product Dating
Intro:
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed meat, egg products for your family and friends.

Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods safe during a power outage.

So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.


Host:
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” I’m Kathy Bernard with the FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff, and I’m your host for this segment about food product dating.

Every day, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline receives calls from consumers about the dates on food products. Today, Technical Information Specialists Nadine Shaw and Carol McAlman will create a dramatization of our more common calls and questions about food product dating.

Hello and welcome to the show.

Technical Information Specialist:
Thank you. Welcome to the Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Let’s listen to our first call…

Technical Information Specialist:
Good morning, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, how may I help you?

Consumer:
Hi, I have a few questions about dates on food products and I noticed that not all products are dated. Isn’t it a Federal law that all products be dated?

Technical Information Specialist:
Except for infant formula and some baby food, product dating is not generally required by Federal regulations. Also, 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.

If a manufacturer wants to put a calendar date on a food product, it must be accompanied by a phrase explaining the meaning of the date, such as "sell-by" or "use-by."

Consumer:
Ok, so what do “sell-by” and “use-by” dates mean?

Technical Information Specialist:
The “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Consumers should buy the product before the “sell-by” date expires. If it’s a perishable product, you may keep it in the refrigerator for no longer than the recommended storage time. However, if the product is frozen, it will stay safe indefinitely…even after the “sell-by” date expires.

“Use-by” dates usually refer to the best quality of a product and not to its safety. “Use-by” dates are determined by the manufacturer indicates when to use the product while it is at its peak quality.

Consumer:
Should I throw food away if the“ use-by” date expires?

Technical Information Specialist:
Even if the product use-by date expires during home storage, it should be safe when handled properly. If it’s a perishable product, this means keeping it at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or below. But it won’t last forever, make sure to check the USDA Refrigerator and Freezer Storage chart, at www.fsis.usda.gov for recommended storage times.

Consumer:
What about other types of dates found on food products?

Technical Information Specialist:
Sometimes food products have a “best-if-used by” date, which is the recommended date for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Consumer:
What about the codes or numbers on canned goods? I can never read them…..

Technical Information Specialist:
Cans have packing codes that may contain a series of letters or numbers. These codes help track canned products in the market place in case they’re recalled. The packing codes also help manufacturers and grocers rotate their stock.

Consumer: This is great information! I just thought of something else I need to ask.

I was cleaning my refrigerator one day and found some items with expired dates. I threw out the old food that was moldy or that I didn’t even remember buying….. you know, when in doubt, throw it out!

Do you have any advice on food handling and storage of products that don’t have dates?

Technical Information Specialist:
Yes! We sure Do!
  • First of all bring all perishables home immediately after purchase and refrigerate them promptly, or freeze them if you won’t be able to use them within the recommended time frame.
  • and remember frozen product will stay safe indefinitely.
  • Of course you should follow handling recommendations on all products.
  • and finally don’t forget to reference the USDA refrigerator and freezer storage chart on the FSIS Web site.
Consumer:
Thank you so much I appreciate the help.

Technical Information Specialist:
Thank you for calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline! Call us anytime, we are available M-F 10am-4pm eastern time.

Host:
Let’s take another call…..

Technical Information Specialist:
Good Morning! USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, may I help you?

Consumer:
Yesterday I bought a fresh turkey with a “use by date” of today. I accidentally left it in my car all night. I was planning on cooking the turkey today, but now I’m worried that it won’t be safe to eat. It was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit in my garage last night, can I still use it?

Technical Information Specialist:
Well, The date is not the issue in this situation….

Even though the product is still within its “use-by” date time frame, it was accidentally mishandled. When a perishable food is left at room temperature for more than two hours (or one hour above 90 degrees, don’t use it! Bacteria can grow quickly and cause foodborne illness, no matter what date is on the package.

And of course, if food develops an off odor, flavor, or an unusual appearance, don’t that either!

Consumer:
Oh, I’m so glad I called you. So, where can I find more information about the safe storage of food?

Technical Information Specialist:
FSIS’ Web site contains more information on the safe handling and storage of food products. Visit www.fsis.usda.gov, where you can also find the USDA’s Refrigerator and Freezer Home Storage Chart. Another good source for home food storage information is the “Food Keeper” from the Food Marketing Institute. You can find the Food Keeper by visiting www.FMI.org.

Consumer:
Thank you.

Technical Information Specialist:
Thank you for calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline!

Host:
Nadine, where can our listeners get answers other food safety questions?

Technical Information Specialist: Listeners can Ask Karen, FSIS’ virtual representative, food safety questions or Chat with Karen, at askkaren.gov.

They can also call the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674 to ask questions in English or Spanish.

Host:
We’ve been listening to calls received by the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline about food product dating.

Thank you so much for joining us.

I’m Kathy Bernard and I’d like to thank you for joining us for this episode of “Food Safety at Home.” And remember, “Be Food Safe.”


Outro:
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of food safety at home!

For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.

You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative "Ask Karen" at askkaren.gov .

Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to podcast@fsis.usda.gov.
Thanks for tuning in.
Last Modified Nov 08, 2013