It is essential to include use by dates on your food labels to make sure your food labels are legal. You need to include a detailed list of ingredients on your labels and abide by a host of other requirements including use by dates.
Section 1.2.5 of the Food Standards Code under the heading, Information Requirements – date marking of food for sale addresses the issue of use by dates.
In this section, the definition of a use by date is given as follows:
“Use-by date, for a food for sale, means the date after which it is estimated that the food for sale should not be consumed because of health or safety reasons, if the food for sale:
(a) remains in an intact package during its storage; and
(b) is stored in accordance with any storage conditions applicable under Standard 1.2.6.”
Section 1.2.6 relates to how the food is stored. For example, if you store milk in a cupboard or on the kitchen bench instead of the refrigerator, then it will be unsafe to drink well before the use by date. It does not take a legal expert to understand these food laws. They are just common sense. What you must be careful of is to apply these laws accurately.
My family is quite cautious when it comes to use by dates. We discard food the night before the use by date but the legislation concludes it is safe to consume food on the use by date.
The legislation also allows for variations of a use by date. The three variations are as follows:
Best Before Date – Similar to use by date but with softer language.
Baked on date – this statement is basically for bread or similar baked products.
Baked for date – To qualify for this phrase, the baker only has to bake the bread after mid-day on the preceding day.
Three Options For Printing Use By Dates On Food Labels
The challenge for food producers and manufacturers when it comes to their food labels is to comply with the law with regards to food labelling and also to minimise the costs of packaging and labelling.
The most obvious but least used process of getting use by dates on your food labels is to print separate labels for each batch of food produced. This is easy for the label printing company but expensive for you as the food producer because it would mean printing new labels with each batch of food produced.
By far the most common way to include the use by date on your food labels is to have your labels printed in two runs. You would employ a label printing company such as ourselves to print the base label. On top of that label, you can print separate information such as a use-by date.
This second print run is generally done by the actual food producer rather than the label printing company. To enable printing by a thermal transfer printer, the labels are printed with a thermal transfer varnish rather than the more common ultra-violet varnish. It is actually possible to buy a good thermal transfer printer for less than $5,000 whereas the base labels are printed on label printing machinery that can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $2,000,000.
If you are just starting out with your food business and do not want to go to the expense of getting a thermal transfer printing machine, then you can use a special permanent marker and just hand write the use by date on the labels. The base labels could be printed with a laminate or varnish and this can be either a gloss or matt finish.