Prevent Mislabeling with Date Code Verification

Jim Frider
By Jim Frider | May 5, 2022
Senior Product Marketing Manager

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

Producing consistent, high-quality product is key for brand protection in any industry. Naturally, therefore, key features should be monitored to ensure that your product is consistent from lot to lot, across products, across machines, and across facilities. The quality management system you employ must be easy to configure, navigate, and (above all) use.
 
And, without a doubt, your quality management system should help move you and your operations out of the dark ages and into the sunlight of at-your-fingertips quality assurance. Date codes are designed to help you do that, by shedding some much-needed light on when products are safe for consumers to use. InfinityQS® quality management systems ProFicient and ProFicient on Demand are here to do just that.
Date Code Verification

Operators, Date Codes, & ProFicient

Since date codes keep consumers informed, they can be considered what I would call “critical”—because, let’s face it, when bad products get into consumers’ hands good things rarely happen. Today’s headlines are filled with stories of products that don’t meet the standards set forth on their labels. Those are costly mistakes that can be avoided with a feature like date code verification.
 
Before a manufacturing run starts, operators can easily verify that the date code selected for the current run is correct by performing a simple test configured in ProFicient.
Date Code Verification test 
Proficient Date Code Verification test 
 

Generating Date Codes

Date codes are generated dynamically based on specified rules and formatting requirements. Operators simply enter the date code as it appears on the product. ProFicient does the rest.
 

What Happens When a Date Code is Wrong?

If a date code is found to be incorrect, ProFicient generates an event—along with an Assignable Cause Code (ACC) and the resulting Corrective Action Code (CAC)—enabling operators to document why the labelling error occurred and what was done to correct it.
Verification Event Notification
Proficient-generated event notification
Spec Limit Violation with ACC + CAC 
Upper Spec Limit Violation Information – with ACC and CAC
 
This streamlines the process for the operator and prevents the loss of an entire run of product. It’s what I would consider to be a quick fix to what could turn out to be an expensive error. And it takes the pressure off busy operators.
Avoid Mislabeling with Date Code Verification

About Date Codes

Date codes are important for traceability—both for the manufacturer and for the customer. Federal regulations regarding date code labels on food packaging are limited (except for infant formula, which is required by Federal regulations), and state regulations vary broadly.
 
Manufacturers, therefore, have a wide range of discretion for deciding when to include date labels on food packaging and what label terms they want to use. Even though date code meanings vary state-to-state and are not legally defined, some common date code terms you may come across at your local grocery store can loosely be defined as follows:
  • “Pack” or “Production” Date: the date on which the food product was manufactured or placed in final packaging.
  • “Sell by” date: a date determined by the manufacturer that provides information to the retailer for stock control, while leaving a reasonable amount of shelf life for the consumer after purchase.
  • “Best if Used by” date: an estimate by the manufacturer of the date after which the food product will no longer be at its highest quality.
  • “Use by” date: the date determined by the manufacturer that indicates the last date recommended for use of the food product while at peak quality.
  • “Freeze by” date: a date determined by the manufacturer intended to be a reminder that the quality of the food product can be maintained much longer by freezing the product.
  • “Enjoy by” date: generally speaking, this date is used by some manufacturers to recommend the time frame for the consumer to obtain the most enjoyment from the food product.
So, you can see that there is a variety of available date codes manufacturers use to provide that important information to consumers.
 
Regardless of the format you decide to use, ProFicient keeps track of all your date codes; and, consequently, you can feel safe in the knowledge that the public is properly informed and that the correct date code label is used in every run—by providing a highly-flexible date code engine to ensure that each date code matches your labeling standards.
Inspecting Labels 

Date Code Label Verification Features

Flexible Date & Product Code Formatting
  • More than 30 date code formatting options (e.g., general, special, country, date) are available in ProFicient.
  • ProFicient supports different date code formats used across different products within one manufacturing facility. This is a common requirement of global food and beverage companies.
Automated Date Code Generation & Blind Date Code Verification
  • Operators can quickly verify a date code label by typing in the date code found on the test article.
  • ProFicient then autogenerates the correct date code and compares it, using string compare, to the entered date code—providing a simple pass/fail test.
Event Notification & Follow-up
  • If a date code verification test fails, an event is created, and email notifications can be sent to key personnel.
  • For added context and accountability, operators can be compelled to add ACCs and CACs if a date code error occurs.
Date Code Verification 

Common Use Cases

Regulated industries that require date codes on products, including:
  • Beverages
  • Food manufacturing
  • Pharmaceuticals
 

Closing

So, the next time you’re perusing the aisles in your local supermarket, stop and peek at the date code on some products. When you ensure that the date code on your product is accurate, the consumers who purchase it know that it is safe to use (or how long it should last after it is purchased). With date code verification, InfinityQS quality management systems save your company time, and potentially a ton of money, by helping you prevent mislabeled products from leaving your factory.
 
 
I encourage you to take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information about all of our quality management software solutions and specifically about date code verification in ProFicient.
 

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