Wednesday Word: Code

“Sell by,” “enjoy by,” “use by,” and so on.  The dates listed after these phrases are date codes — or just codes, in shorthand.

If you hear a store employee say, “That item is out of code,” the item has expired and needs to be removed from the shelf.  Perishable items like milk can also have a “pull date,” a date when the store will proactively look to remove it from the shelf.

Bonus fact: Most non-perishable items will expire 2 years after the date it was manufactured.  Yes, even water — which theoretically shouldn’t expire, right?

Mental Floss has a good write-up on why this happens:

A 1987 NJ state law required all food products sold there to display an expiration date of two years or less from the date of manufacture. Labeling, separating and shipping batches of expiration-dated water to the Garden State seemed a little inefficient to bottled water producers, so most of them simply started giving every bottle a two-year expiration date, no matter where it was going.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has never established or suggested a limitation on the shelf life of bottled water as long as it’s produced in accordance with regulations and the bottle remains properly sealed.

Yes, blame New Jersey.

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