Packaged food sold to consumers through a retailer (ex: grocery store, market) must have a unique production code applied to each unit that represents the production day or batch. This is also referred to as a lot code, best before code, etc. Production codes are part of the Safe Food For Canadians (SFCR) traceability requirements, read more here.
A manufacturer does have options for the format of this code.
1) Best Before Date: A food with a shelf life under 90 days requires a best before date in the format outlined in the Food and Drug Regs. It is required to be bilingual, and must use 2 letters for the month and digits for the year and day of the month. See format examples here. It is possible to use the best before date as a production code if desired. For products with a shelf life over 90 days, the best before date is optional but it can still be used and doubles as a production code.
Example: Best Before/Meilleur Avant 2023 JA 11
2) "Julian Date" Production Code: Manufacturers can use a code that only they can translate into the production date. A common approach is to use a Julian date format. This is typically 2 digits for the year, followed by a number between 1-365 that represents the day of the year. If using this approach, find the appropriate Julian Calendar for each year as it changes with leap years.
Example: 23011 (Jan 11, 2023)
3) "Scrambled" Production Code: Manufactures can use a code format that follows a pattern only they can translate. This is helps ensure a customer can not confuse a production code with a best before date and allows a manufacturer to include additional information like production location, time of day, staff, equipment used, etc.
A few tips:
For products that are only being sold direct to consumer and do not fall under the SFCR requirements, it is still beneficial to code each batch incase of customer questions or quality issues down the road.
Choose a format so that a consumer will not commonly confuse a production date code with a best before date.
Consider how and where the code is being applied when designing artwork, as the design may need to include a space for a code.
Research different applicaiton methods such as applied by hand with a sticker, stamp or automated ink jet coding during larger scale packaging.
Follow the documentation requirements for traceability for ingredients, production, and shipping as required by the SFCR.
Written By; Venturepark Labs Team