Can grocery stores sell meat and food without a date on it?

Dear Consumer Ed:

Can a grocery store sell meat and other food without a date on it?

Consumer Ed says:

For the answer to this question, we consulted the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Except for infant formula, which requires a “use by” date, product dating is not required by Federal regulations. For meat, poultry, and egg products under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), dates may be voluntarily applied, provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and in compliance with FSIS regulations. To comply, a calendar date must include both the month and day of the month. In the case of shelf-stable and frozen products, the year must also be displayed. Additionally, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as "Best if Used By."

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does require a "pack date" for poultry products and thermally processed, commercially sterile products to help identify product lots and facilitate trace-back activities in the event of an outbreak of foodborne illness.

For more information about food expiration date requirements and food safety, click here.

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