December 2, 2020

Francesca Vincenzi | Mérieux NutriSciences Italy


Different printing methods in the main markets: EU, USA, Canada, China, Japan
expiration date main markets

The Date of Minimum Durability (BBE) and the expiration date are mandatory information for most food products. The date is normally printed on the production line with preset methods, but in the case of products and packs destined for foreign markets it is necessary to check the correct method of indicating the date.

In fact, in the regulations governing the labeling of products, not only the wording for the date of minimum durability or expiry date is indicated, but also the way in which the date must be reported, such as the information to be reported (day-month-year) as well as the order and format to be used.


In all EU countries, as defined by reg. 1169/2011, the date includes, in order and in clear form:

  • the day, 
  • the month 
  • possibly the year.



In the USA, the date should normally be reported only for products that have a shelf life of more than 90 days. When you have to or decide to report the date of the minimum durability or expiration date also for reasons of product traceability, this must be indicated by putting the month first, then the day and lastly the year.



Canadian law provides for a mixed date indication method, ie using both numbers and letters. Also in this country, the product validity date is normally mandatory only for products with a shelf life of less than 90 days.

Since Canada requires labeling in the two official languages, English and French, the wording for the minimum durability or expiry date must be indicated in both languages ​​and the date must be between the indication in English and the one in French. The date must be expressed with the indication of the last two digits of the year, the abbreviated abbreviation of the month and the numerical indication of the day. The legislation also contains the list of bilingual abbreviations allowed for the months.



In the labeling of products marketed in China, it is necessary to indicate in addition to the expiration date or  the DMD also the date of production. Both dates must be displayed in the sequence year month day. The year must always be expressed with 4 digits, while the day and month must always be expressed with two digits each.

Similarly, in Japan the date must be printed indicating the year, month and day in the order. In both countries, China and Japan, printing in different ways is also tolerated, for example with the order in the European format, provided that the label clearly states for the consumer how the date reported must be interpreted. In China in particular, it is necessary to indicate next to each number its meaning between day month and year.


Given the multiplicity of date formats it is necessary to take this aspect into account both in the creation of the wordings on the pack, for any references or captions, and in the setting of the printing in the production line, in order to ensure the compliance of the pack with the regulations of the Destination Country.

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