Cates SC, Kosa KM, Post RC, Caravan J. Consumers' attitudes toward open dating of USDA-regulated foods. Food Prot Trends. 2004 Feb;24(2):82.

Open dates on food products help retailers decide how long to display products for sale ("sell-by" date) or help consumers know by when to purchase or use products for best quality ("use-by" date or "best-if-used by" date). With the exception of infant formula and some baby foods, federal regulations in the United Sates do not require open dating; thus, for many products consistent information on product shelf life is not available to consumers. This study used focus groups to explore cunsumers' use and understanding of open dates and consumers' attitudes toward a federally mandated open dating system for US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-regulated foods. Consistent with previous consumer research on open dating, many of our focus group participants rely on open dates to determine storage time. However, some participants are confused by the use of different open date statements. Most focus group participants enthusiastically support Federal regulations that would require manufacturers to provide open dates, preferably use-by dates, on all USDA-regulated products. Although current open dating practices are generally quality based, participants believe mandatory open dating is necessary to ensure the safety of foods. Regulators can use the study findings to assist in developing labeling policy for open dating.

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