Understanding MPC Dates
PRODUCTION CODE DATE FORMATS
There are three basic types of production code date formats used by most food manufacturers. They are “Closed Code”, “Open Code” and “Best If Used By” (BIUB).
Closed codes are normally used by food manufacturers when they do not want the code to easily be determined by their competitors or consumers. A closed code can be any combination of numbers and/or letters in any order. The two most common types are, a variation of the date by switching the sequence of the month, day and year or using a Julian day code and the year, either before or after it. Closed codes are being used less and less by manufactures due to consumer pressure to know how old products are.
Examples: June 19, 2007 could be “070619” (YYMMDD) or “17007” (JJJYY).
Open codes are the most popular code format used by food manufacturers and can easily be read to determine the production date of a product. They can simply be a date or they may be preceded by a term such as “Born On”, “Manufacture Date” or “Made”. This popular type of date code is fast loosing ground, as more and more consumers demand some type of expiration date on products.
Example: June 19, 2007 could be “JUN 19 2007” or “Made 061907."
Best If Used By
BIUB codes are becoming the norm for most food manufactures due to consumer demand. They may also be called “Best By” dates or “Expiration” dates. These codes are used to show the consumer the time frame for using the product based on optimum quality and a specific shelf life. The manufacturer must first determine a shelf life for their product. In some instances, such as canned product or glass jars that have been heat processed, the product may have an indefinite shelf life as far as not spoiling. However, most manufacturers set their shelf life based on optimum quality. Even though the product may not spoil, at some point the taste or consistency may start to be less than ideal. Usually a manufacturer sets the shelf life at one, two or three years. This makes it easy to determine the BIUB date to apply when producing the product. They would use the same date of manufacturer and just add one, two or three years to the date.
Examples: June 19, 2007 with a two year shelf life could be “Best If Used By June 19, 2009”, “BEST BY June 19, 2009” or “Expires June 19, 2009."