There are two types of bacteria that can be found on food: pathogenic bacteria, which cause foodborne illness, and spoilage bacteria, which cause foods to deteriorate and develop unpleasant characteristics such as an undesirable taste or odor making the food not wholesome, but do not cause illness.
For example, sausage formulated with certain ingredients used to preserve the quality of the product or fresh beef packaged in a modified atmosphere packaging system that helps ensure that the product will stay fresh for as long as possible.
These products will typically maintain product quality for a longer period of time because of how the products are formulated or packaged.
Microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, and bacteria can multiply and cause food to spoil.
Viruses are not capable of growing in food and do not cause spoilage.
Foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled "Best if Used By" date.
[Top of Page] Safety After Date Passes With an exception of infant formula (described below), if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident (Chill Refrigerate Promptly)."Open Dating" is a calendar date applied to a food product by the manufacturer or retailer.The calendar date provides consumers with information on the estimated period of time for which the product will be of best quality and to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale.[Top of Page] Can Food be Donated After the Date Passes? The quality of perishable products may deteriorate after the date passes but the products should still be wholesome if not exhibiting signs of spoilage.Food banks, other charitable organizations, and consumers should evaluate the quality of the product prior to its distribution and consumption to determine whether there are noticeable changes in wholesomeness (Food Donation Safety Tips). Consumption by this date ensures the formula contains not less than the quantity of each nutrient as described on the label."Closed or coded dates" are a series of letters and/or numbers and typically appear on shelf-stable products such as cans and boxes of food. There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States.