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Date markings and storage instructions on food labels
Date marking information on specific products

Retail packed foods

Foods that bear a packaging date and are repackaged by a retailer must maintain the original packaging date applied when the product was first packed or weighed as per B.01.007(1) of the FDR. This applies even when alterations that do not prolong the durable life of the product occur, such as trimming, deboning, muscle separation and grinding.

If the product is removed from the display and significant processing has occurred to prolong the durable life of the product, for example, it is combined with other ingredients to create a new product, or is cooked or cured, then the original packaging date is rendered meaningless. In this circumstance, a new date would be used. The retailer must consider the age and condition of the product when deciding the appropriate durable life information.

Foods that are thawed at retail prior to sale without being repackaged are not required to bear a durable life date or a packaging date. The requirement to apply date markings is related to the time that the product is being packaged. If a product is in a frozen state at the time that it is being packaged, then a best before date or packaging date need not be applied because the product is deemed to have a durable life date of greater than 90 days. In the case of single ingredient meat, poultry, marine or fresh water animal that are thawed prior to sale, the words "previously frozen" must appear on the label. Refer to "Previously frozen meat and poultry products" on the Meat and Poultry Products page or Previously frozen fish and fish products for more information.

Shipping containers

In the case of durable life requirements, the definition for durable life specifies "when a prepackaged product is packaged for retail sale". Therefore, the intent of the durable life regulations applies to products that will be sold at the retail level and not to shipping containers. A durable life date is not mandatory on shipping containers unless these are to be sold at the retail level of trade.

In addition, subsection B.01.007(6) of the FDR (which specifies that if a durable life date is declared it must follow the required manner of declaration) would not apply to a date marking on a shipping container that is not offered for sale at retail as it is not considered a "durable life date" marking system. However, if a shipping container is sold at retail, the durable life date marking requirements, as set out under B.01.007 of the FDR, apply.

Modified atmosphere packaged foods

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is a technique that alters the proportion of gases within a package in order to improve the shelf life of fresh or minimally processed foods. Manufacturers must bear this in mind when applying "best before" dates. As the purpose of MAP is to extend the shelf life of a food, if the product is removed from a MAP container or package at retail, the durable life of that product may change and this must be factored into the establishment of appropriate durable life information.

If a manufacturer uses MAP, durable life information must be provided in one of the following manners when sold at retail:

  • product in MAP when packaged by manufacturer and sold in original packaging
    • manufacturer is required to apply durable life date and storage instructions (if appropriate) on label
  • product removed from the MAP package or shipping container and re-packaged and/or processed further by retailer
    • retailer is required to apply either a "packaged on" date on the label with durable life information on the label or on a poster next to the food, or the durable life date and storage instructions on the label
  • prepackaged product removed from a MAP package or shipping container without being re-packaged
    • when the retailer removes the product from the MAP and offers for sale, this may affect the durable life of the food. Therefore, the retailer becomes responsible to ensure that accurate and truthful durable life information be provided for the food. This may be accomplished by applying a "packaged on" date reflecting the date the product was removed from MAP, and associated durable life information
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