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Food Safety: Labeling & Dating

Storage and packaging practices help assure proper ingredient usage and food safety.

Employee mixed chemical in sweet tea thinking it was sugar, woman in critical condition.

This recent news headline shows just how important it is to label food and non-food items in your kitchen. Any food that is not in its original packaging must be labeled. Think about all of the foods that could easily be mistaken for one another: salt could be used in place of sugar or baking powder in place of flour. Always make sure chemicals are labeled and kept in a closet, or in a separate area away from food.

Dating for Food Storage

In addition to labeling, dating items requires special attention. All foods that require time and temperature control (TCS) should be labeled with the following:

  • Common name of the food (ex: macaroni and cheese)
  • Date the food was made
  • Use by date

The TCS food can be kept for seven days if it is stored at 41°F or lower. If the TCS food is not used within seven days it must be discarded. Remember, Day 1 is the day the product was made. Example: If a product was made on October 15, the use-by date would be October 21.

Dating for Cold & Hot Foods without Temperature Control

Remember to also label foods that are not being monitored for temperature control. If a TCS food is being served and the temperature is not being maintained, it needs to be labeled with the following:

  • Common name of the food (ex: tuna salad)
  • Time it was removed from refrigeration (ex: 10 am)
  • Time it needs to be discarded (ex: 4 pm)

Cold foods must be sold or served within six hours. After six hours any leftover cold food product must be discarded. Hot foods must be sold or served within four hours. After four hours the hot food product must be discarded. The Nutrition Resource Center, a team of registered dietitians and certified food-safety professionals at Gordon Food Service, offers many food safety tools and resources for customers. If you are currently a customer, learn more about our food safety service offerings.