Decoding expiration dates

Today I picked up a food item in the store and the year of expiration was 20XX.
What the heck does that mean? Is there anyone in the food industry that can explain this?
I brought it to the attention of some employees and they had never seen it before and were clueless.
Even more mysterious was the same product in another store had 20MM as the expiration year!

happiest girl
May '19

Isn’t XX=20 in Roman numerals? 2020 would be my guess. Not sure why thy would suddenly switch from Arabic to Roman numerals halfway through an expiration date though?

Disgruntledone1 Disgruntledone1
May '19

Other than infant formula, there is no requirement to even have an expiration date on food. Those that do can used “closed dating” formats, in which there is meaning only to that manufacturer for a particular number/letter.

One company’s “January 1 2020” could be another’s “20J1” which could be another’s “1120”.

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating

Mark Mc. Mark Mc.
May '19

Wow - good detective work in deciphering that, Disgruntledone.
If you're right, the MM would kind of make sense ...... with M = 1000 ........
so MM would = 2000. So 20MM = 2020?
(or maybe 202000 ...... wow, long shelf life!!! )
LOL

happiest girl
May '19

Mark Mc --- true, but just about all foods have expiration dates on the packaging --- even salt!
LOL
Pretty sure everyone wants to eat the freshest food possible.

happiest girl
May '19

happiest girl

While many companies are forthright with their expiration date (or their "born on" date, with a time period after which they state their product is "best by" or should be "used by"), some are not quite so open. I'm not sure why that is, though you'd think that the FDA would require something easily understood by the consumer, rather than only by the servicing vendor for the product.

It's possible that the product you're talking about may be stocked by an independent vendor, rather than through some general warehouse. Since you didn't mention what the product was, I couldn't tell you for sure what the code means, though I'll hazard a guess. It's quite possible that the "20" stands for the year and the "MM" or "XX" stands for a week in that year based on the letter combination. Since there are 26 letters and 52 weeks, the MM could stand for the 13+13 or 26th week of the year and XX the 24+24 or 48th week of the year. I've seen a code similar to that, so that's my best guess.

In any case, many times if you go to the manufacturers website it will tell you how to decode their expiration date.

I that did once because a candy bar was marked in somewhat similar fashion and I couldn't figure out whether it was actually out of date or had been heated and cooled in the vendor's truck several times. In any case it tasted stale and turned out to be within the expiration date.

Phil D. Phil D.
May '19

Thanks, Phil D.
I actually did email the manufacturer of the product today and am waiting for their answer.
It's bizarre that some companies would use such evasive labelling --- you would think they would realize the downfalls of such a procedure I guess they are banking on people who don't read labels, or people who don't think expiration dates are important, or people who don't understand their codes and therefore can't report them for selling expired food.

happiest girl
May '19

It’s when I grab something from the pantry that has no expiration date that I wonder about my shelf management skills :-).

I agree, should be, by regulation, consistent in form and should be expiration date. Best by date should be optional. I mean “best by” is an opinion. Expire is morte.

And while we’re at it; what’s “light” mean. I understand “no fat,” but how is light or lite defined?

And why does “no sugar added” really mean “lots of artificial sweetner added?”

And quit tracking mud across my clean kitchen floor.....

Ah, thanks. Feelin better now. Go on with your day.

StrangerDanger StrangerDanger
May '19

Anyone who throws away salt because it's past its "expiration date" is an idiot. The only products I concern myself with in this regard are milk and fresh meat. Just last night, I had a sandwich with Gulden's mustard that "expired" back in 2016... it was delicious, lol.

ianimal ianimal
May '19

I also eat quite a bit of expired foods. I google whatever the product is, how long is ——good after the expiration date? Most would be surprised. Of course, there’s always the visual and smell test too!

Bessie Bessie
May '19

I do not put ketchup in the fridge and it is good for years. Remember best by today, doesn't mean bad by tomorrow.

BrownEyesGuy BrownEyesGuy
May '19

I’ve never had a problem with rice, pasta, oatmeal, pancake mix, condiments and canned goods. I would’ve been dead by now. Lol

Also, I freeze a lot of food; bread, bagels, cake, english muffins and so on.

Waste of food is a big pet peeve of mine.

Positive Positive
May '19

LOL --- I'm still using the Herbamare Salt that I bought from the Health Food Store that used to be on Main Street -- I think the lady's name that owned it was Eleanore.
Just because salt doesn't go bad does not stop salt companies from putting expiration dates on the package.

As far as the above comment about rice, pasta, pancake mix ...... they will get bugs if left long enough if they are in cardboard packaging. Once I brought home a box of Ronzoni Pasta from shoprite that already had bugs in it ........ and it was not even outdated.

happiest girl
May '19

You’re right happiest, that’s why after awhile I put them in the fridge.

Positive Positive
May '19

I saw a "Best By" date on a container of salt. Would someone please explain to me how salt can go bad?

walleyed walleyed
May '19

Expires by, use by, best by....all mean different things. Some can stay on shelves longer then others. I've never seen a XX

Botheredbyuu2 Botheredbyuu2
May '19

For the most part, I will toss pretty darned quick although less perishable goods like mustard, dry mixes, etc, I am pretty liberal about the date. I also fry my eggs hard now and have a real beef with any mayo-based salads being left out long. Mayo doesn't kill; touching stuff with Mayo can kill... or so I learned. My take: stomach bug for a $1; I don't want to buy that :>()

I started this life in the restaurant kitchen and was forever changed. There is no five second rule here!

FYI, by the time I serve dinner, the kitchen is clean, usually cleaner than when I started. Used to rail on Mom for leaving the salad fixings out for 30 minutes ---- veges, who can be scared of them?

So yeah, a bit phobic.

strangerdanger strangerdanger
May '19

walleyed

Remember the Morton Salt logo, "When It Rains, It Pours"? Salt normally has an additive to keep it from clumping together and forming one big solid mass. After opening and many humidity cycles, the additive just doesn't work as well anymore or not at all. The expiration date pretty much is the manufacturer's best guess on how long (in average conditions) it will take before the anticlumping agents are no longer effective. Salt itself doesn't go bad, unless it picks up contaminants, it just tries to become the way it normally is in a salt mine, humid and one mass.

Phil D. Phil D.
May '19

Re: Decoding expiration dates

you people are overthinking it----------------->


maybe we should ask the GenX crowd, lol


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