Storing food properly includes labeling and dating in an efficient method to ensure food is safe to consume and quality is maintained. There are five dates to remember when storing food products.

Received Date: A best practice is to date all products when they are delivered to the facility. This is the received date. Remove cans or packages from the original box and date each one.Use the first-in, first-out (FIFO) storage system placing newly delivered similar products behind previously delivered products ensuring older product is used first.

Expiration Date is the shelf life of the unopened product. A company can assure the freshness of an unopened product up to the expiration date.  Once a product is exposed to heat, air, or manual manipulation it has a reduced shelf life.

Open Date:  The open date is the date the product was opened exposing it to potential contamination.

Use by Date:  This date is the opened product new expiration date.  The use by date will vary depending upon the food product. Products with a high moisture content will have a shorter shelf life.  Canned fruit should be used within a week vs. peanut butter three months. Leftovers should be used within 72 hours which includes the day of preparation. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for nutritional supplements and thickened products.

Pull Date: This is the date product was pulled from the freezer and placed in the refrigerator. Once thawed meat and poultry should be used within two days. Labels can be purchased to write the open date or pull date and use by date on opened products.

The USDA website www.usda.gov, is an excellent resource for food storage guidelines.