The practice of date marking foods is designed to prevent Listeria — an illness from bacteria that can grow in refrigerated foods over time. Date marking encourages a “first in, first out” practice designed to rotate stock as quickly as possible and should be a back-of-house practice – not something that is customer-facing.

New changes around date marking foods are coming to the state food code starting March 1, 2022. Date marking only applies to:

  • Cold, refrigerated food
  • Ready-to-eat food
  • Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) food
  • Food prepared inside the food establishment or opened packaged food
  • Food that you store for more than 24 hours

Foods that meet those criteria require date marking. If they do not meet one or more of those criteria, they do not need to be date marked.

Date marking systems
You do not have to subscribe to a specific date marking system. You can use a variety of methods such as color-coded stickers, written stickers, or calendars – whatever works best for your business. However, whatever system you use, you must train your team so that everyone is on the same page. And the system must be explainable to a health inspector. While not a requirement of the food code, a good best practice would be to have your date marking system in writing so that the system can be clearly explained to your team members and health inspectors.

Day One starts as foods are prepared or opened from their packaging. From there, the foods must be used within seven days before discarding them. Freezing foods will allow you to pause the calendar, but it doesn’t restart the clock.


  • Some foods are exempt from date marking requirements, including:
  • Deli salads prepared & packaged in a food processing plant
  • USDA-regulated, shelf-stable fermented sausages & salt-cured meats
  • Shellstock
  • Hard and semi-soft cheeses
  • Cultured dairy products
  • Preserved fish products
  • Reduced oxygen packaging food