Food Packaging Safety


The first thing you see when you open a package of food is the label. Labels tell you what's in your food, like ingredients and nutrition information. But they also let you know something else: how long the product will keep and whether it's safe to eat. The codes that appear on food packaging can be confusing, which is why we're here today to help demystify them!

The codes that appear on food and beverage packages can tell you a lot about the product inside.

The codes that appear on food and beverage packages can tell you a lot about the product inside.

The codes can tell you when the product was made, when it will expire, and where it was made.

Food packaging codes are not required by law.

It's important to remember that food packaging codes are not required by law, but they do help consumers. When you notice a code on your food packaging, it can be used to track the food you buy and even provide more information about the product.


You should also be aware that coding is not an indicator of food safety. Coding is not required by law, nor is it a guarantee of quality or freshness. Food manufacturers can use codes to describe many things in their products, including country of origin and ingredients (for example, "100% Canadian beef", "Made with real cheese"), but they are also free to use them for any reason at all—and sometimes do so for reasons that have nothing to do with what's actually inside the package. For example:

  • Some companies assign codes based on the day their product was packaged—this may mean that you're buying two different versions of the same thing: one packed on Tuesday and another packed on Thursday!

  • Other companies use code names for products which don't match up with what's actually inside; this makes it difficult if you want to know whether someone else has already eaten something before you eat it yourself.

The numbers you might see on packaging usually refer to the date.

  • The numbers you might see on food packaging usually refer to the date.

  • They are not required by law, and they do not indicate whether or not the food is safe to eat.

  • The most important thing to remember when looking at package dates is that they're often used as indicators of how long a product will stay fresh after it's been opened.

  • This means that although there’s no official regulation for what these dates mean, some manufacturers have set up their own standards for how long each product should be edible after opening (which is why you may see something like “best if used by” or “sell by”).

"Use by" and "best by" dates don't tell you whether a product is safe or not, either.

Generally, use by dates are not legally required. They are not regulated by the US government, nor by the FDA or USDA. The only organization that regulates food labeling is the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which oversees meat and poultry products sold in stores. Since frozen foods aren't considered "meat products," they fall under this agency's jurisdiction—but even then, FSIS doesn't have any rules regarding expiration dates on frozen food packaging.

So what do those numbers actually mean? Nothing! Use-by dates don't indicate how long a product will keep its nutritional value or taste good; instead, they're designed to warn consumers about possible health risks associated with eating spoiled foods—which is great if you live in a world where no one ever defrosts their chicken nuggets before baking them at 425°F for 25 minutes (a world I wish existed). But unless you're buying fresh produce from your local farmer's market or U-Pick farm stand and popping it into your own fridge once it's been picked for you (ideally within hours), there's no way of knowing whether an item has been sitting around too long without being refrigerated properly until after it's already spoiled."

Some foods have an "open date" instead of a use-by date.

Some foods have an "open date" instead of a use-by date. The open date means you can use the food until that date on the package, no matter how old it is. It's just another way for manufacturers to tell us when their food will taste best—and it's not a safety issue.

The best by or sell by date is usually a month or two after the opened package has expired, and this is really only important if you're going to buy something in bulk and store it at home for awhile before using it (like canned goods). This type of labeling is also not intended as a safety guide; these dates are recommendations for peak quality rather than indicators of whether food has gone bad.

Foods that perish fairly quickly usually have a use-by date, while foods that last longer usually have a best-by date.

If you're wondering which dates to pay attention to, here's a rule of thumb: foods that perish fairly quickly usually have a use-by date, while foods that last longer usually have a best-by date. The latter is more about quality than safety—you'll probably still be able to eat a product past its best-by date if you want, but it might taste and look different than it did before the expiration date. If something has passed its best-by date but looks okay otherwise, feel free to take your chances and see how it goes!

Look for lot numbers if you're concerned about safety or tracking.

Lot numbers are numbers printed on the bottom of a food package that tell you when it was made. Lot numbers can be helpful if you're concerned about tracking the history of your food product or finding out which company produced it. Lot numbers don't have to be provided by law, but some companies choose to do so in order to help customers identify where their products came from and how long they've been on shelves.  These companies use high quality coding printer like the XYCode E900 thermal inkjet printer especially designed for these application using the Poly Ink 411K for non-porous substrate applications.

But even lot numbers don't tell you as much as they could.

However, even lot numbers don't tell you as much as they could. For example, in the U.S., lot numbers are not required on foods that have a use-by date but not a best-by date (or vice versa). As you can see from this list of foods sold with use-by dates and no lot number requirements by law, this leaves many products out of the reporting equation.

When it comes to food safety, it's up to businesses and consumers to work together to keep everyone safe.

As a consumer, your job is to take responsibility for keeping yourself safe. You can do this by being aware of the foods you buy and preparing them properly. If you need help with how to prepare food safely, ask someone who works in your local grocery store or visit a website like

But when it comes down to it, what really matters is that we all trust each other as people—businesses and consumers alike. The safety of our food depends on being able to trust each other enough that we will all work together toward common goals: keeping everyone healthy and happy!


The next time you see a food or beverage package, take a minute to look at the code on it. You probably won't know exactly what it means, but you'll at least be able to get some insight into how long the product has been sitting on the shelf before you buy it. And if something seems fishy? Don't hesitate to call up your local grocery store and ask about their safety procedures!

Subscribe to our BLOG to stay updated with the Industrial Printing Industry.