What are the common date coding phrases in the food industry? Skip to main content

What is a date coding printer?

A date coding printer is an essential part of the manufacturing and distribution of goods in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industry. When you visit a grocery store, every food product on the shelves has a date code printed on its packaging. These date codes or labels are not some silly characters, they provide important information to help avoid product waste and food poisoning.

Date codes are printed on medicine boxes, bottles, and other medical equipment in the pharmaceutical industry. In food, the date codes are printed on flexible packages, films, cartons, water bottles, juice boxes, soda tin cans, etc. For printing these date codes and labels, various printers are available in the market; however, the thermal inkjet printer is one of the best options, especially when printing on flexible packages. 

Most food packaging has one or more data labels: use by, best before, and display until.  In Europe, according to the 1996 Food Labeling Regulations, The ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labels are essential by law. Retailers added the “display until” label to assist in inventory management. 

Below are the commonly used date code phrases, labels, and information you will find in every food package:

Best before

This date refers to the durable life of the product in terms of quality, taste, texture, aroma, and appearance. By definition from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, durable life means “the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its freshness, taste, nutritional value, or any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer.” You will find this date just under the phrase “best before” or “meilleur avant” in Canada. In the US, when you visit a store you will usually find a phrase like “Best if Used By/Before” which indicates when food will be of best flavor or quality.

Best before date coding phrase in food package

Use by

The ‘best use by’ date is a form of date stamp required for foods considered very perishable from a microbiological point of view because they are related to safety. This includes fresh and chilled food such as raw meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, fruits, and vegetables.

The best-by date applies only to products that have been stored for sale. For example, a product designed to be sold chilled should not be sold frozen.

In almost all countries, it is strictly illegal to sell food after the expiration date.

Display until or Sell by

The ‘Display Until’ or ‘Sell by’ date label is not a legal condition. Sellers use these to help staff rotate inventory. It is not a safety indicator date as well. 


This date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain its quality. This is not a purchase or safety date.

Other label information found on the product package


A Lot is the final quantity of goods produced under essentially the same conditions. This is found commonly next to production and expiry dates. Lot codes are important in the supply chain, especially when tracking a particular batch of a product that needs to be recalled.


It means any substance, including food additives, used in the manufacture or preparation of food and is present in the final product, even in modified forms.

Nutritional Fact

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required all food and beverage manufactured to include Nutritional Fact label on the individual product package. The Nutritional Fact provides detailed information about a food’s nutritional value, such as the amount of fat, sugar, sodium, and fiber it has.


This means a label, trademark, tag, artwork, or other printed, engraved, marked, embossed, or attached to a food container.


It means that it is ready to serve consumers or is packaged or prepackaged in a container for catering purposes.

What date coding printer do you use in your package?

Albeit the use of date code phrases and labels in each country varies, the need for high-quality date code print is something they all need to have in common. The date codes must be readable and visible for both consumers and distributors to avoid food waste problems and food poisoning. In the food industry, thermal inkjet printers have been the recommended solution because of their high-resolution print quality, lower maintenance, and easy integration to various types of food production lines. MapleJet Hx Nitro TIJ is one of the leading and advanced TIJ printers that offers reliable, efficient, and optimal coding and marking solutions.

Ready to shop Hx Nitro TIJ Printer

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