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How to Label | Ecolab Food Safety Solutions

Beyond FIFO

Part 2: Challenges around FIFO and How to Label

By Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH Eastern Food Safety


A consistent food labeling program is critical to a successful food operation and there are many benefits of consistent food rotation program:

  • From a QUALITY perspective, food products will be more wholesome, with improved freshness, taste, appearance and texture, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and repeat customers.
  • For FOOD SAFETY controls, date-marking and rotating foods can help lower the risk of harmful bacterial growth, resulting in safer foods and reduced liability of foodborne illness.

  • And for COST SAVINGS, a strong labeling and food rotation program can result in reduced product waste or loss, more efficient ordering practices, more consistent employee behaviors, and improved compliance on inspections.


Common Challenges in FIFO/Labeling Methods

  • Time constraints of staff
  • Lack of training of workers in a consistent labeling method
  • Confusion about what information is required by management (i.e., dates, ingredients, allergens, employee information)
  • Incorrect information, mistakes in calculating discard dates
  • Handwriting errors or illegible markings
  • Lack of labeling materials, markers, insufficient label type
  • Supplies not conveniently located
  • Using the wrong adhesive on a label (resulting in sticky residue, not washing off completely, or not staying securely to containers and labels affected by moisture)
  • Language barriers of employees
  • Challenges in training or communicating methods for proper labeling and rotating

How to Label Foods

Employees are not always clear on how to label properly or what information their company requires. The goal is to try to eliminate guesswork and mistakes with labeling where possible, to help facilitate procedures and improve compliance with the food rotation/labeling process.


The specific information that should go on the label should be determined by the management of the foodservice operation in accordance with these best practices:

  • A “Use by” or “Discard” date is essential. When determining “use-by” or “discard” dates, DAY 1 is the preparation date of the oldest ingredient in the product, and days are counted out after that. Foods must be discarded on the last counted day.
  • Additional information may include production date/time, employee name, ingredients, allergens, depending on your company policy or regulations in your jurisdiction. Select the label that can accommodate all the information you need.

A consistent labeling and food rotation program is critical to a successful food operation and delivers many benefits including cost savings, improved quality and food safety. Understanding reasons why people don’t label properly can help us to retrain staff to follow proper FIFO practices. In our next article, Beyond FIFO Part 3, we give you tips for Labeling, and Training staff for great success.


Continue reading Part 3: Tips for Training and Labeling for success