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Food needing refrigeration should be kept below 41 degrees.

On the loading dock, in the car, on the kitchen table, it should not be outside of that temperature for more than four hours total.

You have no idea how long it may have been subjected to higher temperatures before you buy it, so you need to minimize the "standing" factor after you get it. Van Landingham also warns that most fridges usually aren't holding at 41 degrees or less. That's the time it takes to recool after you stand there trying to find a cold beer or decide whether anyone will miss the last piece of cake.

Milk should be kept at 38 degrees, fish at 32 degrees.

Continue Reading In the United States there is no standard system for dating food, according to the Department of Agriculture. The USDA estimates that 30 percent of the food supply is lost or wasted at the consumer and retail levels.

The only exception is infant formula, for which Federal regulations require a "Use-By" date on the product label. Dating Infant Formula Federal regulations require manufacturers to include a "Use-By" date on their product label of infant formula.

Van Landingham is picky about letting food get too hot.

"They may still be in mint condition." He recommends using your senses (this would be the "Honey, sniff this" thing) to decide if an item is fresh. It has a use beyond building character in those attempting to remove it. "The item will be good as the day it was packaged." Star Lawrence is a medical journalist based in the Phoenix area.The year may be at the end or beginning of the code. The code may use the standard month (M), day (D) and year (Y) system. Remember that the month digits can only be from 01 to 12 and that the day digits can only be between 01 and 31. If the code does not resemble either of the previous codes, it is most likely using the Julian Calendar, which assigns a number for each day of the year from 1 to 365. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies. The USDA notes that while closed codes could refer to manufacturing date, the codes are not intended for consumer use and no single translation source exists. The codes, which might resemble a number like “2061” or “0195,” are usually stamped on the top or bottom of a can, according to Mealtime.org, a service of the Canned Food Alliance. Manufacturers vary in listing the year or month first and some add numbers to the code that are not related to the date.Check the code to see if numbers are used to represent months.

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Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. The federal government only requires expiration dates on baby foods and infant formula. Open dating uses calendar dates and closed, or coded, dating is a process used by manufacturers to help with managing inventory.