Date Marking

Date Marking

(relates to inspection form #13)

Many food items must be date marked upon opening or storing in refrigeration for later use. Date marking consists of marking the item with the date by which the item must be consumed or discarded. Items may be date marked by using pre-printed stickers, marker and tape, or color coded stickers. As long as the employees understand the system and can explain it to the inspector, it will be considered acceptable.   Not all foods are required to be date marked. An item must be date marked if it meets the following three conditions:

  • The item is a potentially hazardous food (usually high in protein and water activity, easily supporting the growth of pathogenic bacteria.)
  • The item is a ready-to-eat food (RTE) – an item that has been cooked or does not need cooking before serving to the customer.
  • The item will be held in refrigeration for more than 24 hours.

If the item meets all three of the above conditions, it must be clearly labeled to indicate the date the item must be consumed or discarded. Items may be date marked for up to seven days from the day of preparation or opening if held at a refrigeration temperature of 41F or less. Items may only be date marked for four days if held at a refrigeration temperature between 41 – 45F (grandfathered in-line prep coolers). Day 1 is the day of preparation or opening of a commercially prepared product.


  • Enchiladas made Monday for service later in the week would need to be dated to be consumed or discarded by Sunday. (refrigerated at 41F or below).
  • Spaghetti sauce made on Monday and frozen on Wednesday would require date marking to indicate the time remaining after thawing. Freezing stops time, but does not restart it. The product would have five days to be consumed upon thawing.
  • Commercially prepared potato salad or hot dogs need to be dated upon opening.

There are a few exceptions to the date marking requirement. Hard cheeses and ice cream do not require date marking. Individual portions repacked from bulk containers to fill a consumer’s request or whole portions of cured and processed product with the original casing intact on the uncut portion, for example, bologna, salami, and sausage, also do not require date marking.

If in doubt, it never hurts to date mark!

201 North Texas Avenue
Bryan, Texas 77803