Consumers are often confused by the product dating systems used by the food manufacturers. However, they have reported that they consider these dates when purchasing lunchmeats and other ready-to-eat foods. A study was conducted to evaluate changes of microbiological quality of packaged lunchmeat during refrigerated storage as related to the sell-by-date (SBD). Thirty packages of lunchmeat with the same lot number were tested over an extended period. The microbiological quality was satisfactory at the time of purchase. It deteriorated steadily during refrigerated storage regardless of whether the packages were opened or not, and was unsatisfactory at SBD. Food manufacturers should strive to meet the microbiological quality standards and consider the usefulness of the information to consumers when setting a product date.


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