1. Determine how you would like the code to be displayed

First, decide how you would like the code to be presented, the most common options are:
  • A full, abbreviated or numerical form of the date: For example, 1 January 2012, 31 Mar 2012, 1.6.2012 and 01.08.12 are all quite clear.
  • Julian dates (these are not so obvious): a number which contains the year, and day number. For example the code 0195 will translate to the number 0 for the year 2000 and 195 for the Julian date, since July 14 is the 195th day of the year.

2. Decide how you would like the code to be printed / applied to the product

The following are the main options to this and they will ultimately determine which system you decide on.

Print and apply

This involves printing the information onto a label, and then applying it to the product. 
  • Benefits include the ability to apply the label to many substrates, using different coloured labels and ink.
  • Disadvantages are that it can have high costs per code (cost of label + cost of ribbon for the thermal printing).

Direct marking

This involves marking the product directly … without the use of ink. Using a laser marking system you can:
Ablate or remove the top layer of a surface, exposing the layer beneath
Burn or change the surface, creating either a surface texture change or contract change
  • Benefits include no consumable costs (ink / labels), high speeds and minimal maintenance.
  • Disadvantages are it can be an expensive initial investment and there are no colour options available in the marking.

Inkjet printing

This involves printing directly onto the product using ink
If you’ve got an application like this (or anything that requires Factory Automation) post your requirements on our site for free … and we’ll find someone that can deliver a solution for you

Some Useful Sites

Guidance on the application of food date labels to food
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Food Standards Agency (FSA)
Trading Standards Institute (TSI) – food labelling page:
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)
Health Protection Agency (HPA)
NHS ‘Food and diet’ pages:
Report: “Better Regulation of ‘Use by’ Date Labelled Foods” (2011, 32 pages):
‘Food Manufacture’ – a UK trade magazine (and website), published by William Reed:
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Food Labelling Guide:
www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/ucm064904.htm

Leave a Reply