This year has presented us with significant food borne illnesses and related product recalls, of late, infant formula and peanut butter. The fallout of the infant formula resulted in major product shortages for specialized formulas, with the US relying gratefully on other countries to assist us through the crisis. The popular peanut butter brand recall impacted a multitude of companies who used it in their own products, and subsequently, a long list of recalled foods.
Safe food handling begins at the ingredient level, by assuring proper procedures are followed at all stages from animal processing to harvesting crops to packing, shipping, and storing food products. The USDA and FDA set standards for safety at each initial level and can track the raw ingredient through packing and shipping.
Understanding and communicating manufacturer recommendations for product expiration date is also an important step in ensuring food safety. While there aren’t standardized descriptive terms for expiration dates, there are commonly used phrases, as noted by the USDA:
- A “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
- A“Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
- A“Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
- A “Freeze-By”date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
Of late, there has been a great response from agencies and industries. The WHO, CDC, FDA, and USDA are all promoting new initiatives to improve food safety practices and communicate potential concerns and outbreaks as they arise. The Council to Improve Food Outbreak Response (CIFOR – Cifor (en-US)) continuously monitors and revises outbreak response best practices, unifying communications to all involved industries.
Monitoring safe ingredients has never been more important than now. As providers and consumers, we can keep abreast of reported advisories and outbreaks by registering with the FDA at: Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness | FDA, and/or track the Core Outbreak Table at: Investigations of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks | FDA.
Please contact us at www.VSTech.com and/or your Client Manager for additional information on the VST SuiteTM “Production Your Way” module, in particular for product expiration and safety features.