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August 3, 2020

Date coding: what, why and how?

To answer the question “What is date coding“ is easy. It is simply the marking of each product after production with a date.
To tell you where date coding comes from, why it happens, and why consumers or businesses should worry about it, is an altogether more complex matter. 

Date coding: because the Boss says so?

A surprisingly popular Internet rumour says that the Chicago mobster around date coding. While Capone is not usually associated with following legislation, let alone setting it, various online accounts repeat the fascinating story that one of Capone’s staff fell ill by drinking bad milk. The gangster therefore suggested that dairies should print dates on milk to prove it was fresh.

But is date coding a legal requirement?

In some places - no. There is a widely held view that all products must display information relating to freshness, but the truth is that legislation varies widely and many producers are under no obligation whatsoever to print date codes on food packaging. 

Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states of the USA, there are a number of areas in the USA where much of the food supply has some type of open date and other areas where almost no food is dated.

You’re not in Connecticut any more...

An example of the inconsistency can be seen in the dairy industry itself. In Connecticut, the ‘sell-by’ date can be no more than 12 days after the day of pasteurisation. Just a few miles away in Pennsylvania, dairies have 14 days. No wonder Al Capone stayed in Chicago.

These inconsistencies can be seen the world over. Some countries and states demand that “sell by” dates be visible on every product, whereas others call them “use by” dates. Selling and using are different – which makes the labelling confusing. Furthermore, date coding sometimes only suggests that products are “best before” a certain time... This kind of ambiguity can be baffling for customers and producers alike.

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People like date coding

Some writers argue that date coding is unnecessary and even unhelpful; they believe we should be responsible for judging whether food looks, smells or taste good enough to eat and give to our children (or customers). However, most consumers disagree. The presence of a date on a perishable product encourages people to buy it – regardless of legislative pressures. People like to see a date because it gives them confidence of freshness, and food producers therefore apply dates to virtually all products. This is why date code printers have become such an important part of the food packaging and production process.

Why date code printers make life easy for manufacturers

It is not just food producers who need to apply date codes. Date coding is used in the pharma industryelectronic industrycosmetic industry and the beverage industry. This means that date code printer systems have to be versatile enough to cope with a huge range of products, packaged in different ways. Date code printers must be able to print legibly onto a range of different substrates – ranging from the clear films and plastic used to package food, for example, to the glossy boxes used by cosmetics manufacturers. Whether it is bags of flour, beverage bottles, plastic blister packs of medicine or non-edible products like plastic cables, they often need to have dates printed upon them. 

To deal with this kind of variety, manufacturers like LEIBINGER have a wide range of date code printers and inks that make life easy for businesses in all industries.

LEIBINGER: the date coding experts

LEIBINGER helps companies in virtually all industries to solve their date coding problems. Since we are a family-owned company that has been specialising in continuous inkjet printing solutions for three generations, we bring expertise and understanding of the challenges facing industries of all kinds. 

Dairy >>>

Beverage >>>

Pharmaceuticals and supplements >>>

Cosmetics and personal care >>>

Everything you need for successful date coding

LEIBINGER not only provides the date code printers. We also offer a range of accessories, inks and software tools that work alongside the coder, in order to help you to ensure the fast, accurate application of date codes onto products of all kinds. If you have a date coding challenge, we can help you solve it. 


LEIBINGER printers are used every day by different business across the world, so we have a wide range of models available to suit different customers.


LEIBINGER accessories can improve marking performance and simplify integration of industrial marking equipment into your production line.

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To make operation easier, and to make your production line even more efficient, there are a number of powerful software packages available.

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Inks and supplies

We provide a complete range of inks and solvents for every inkjet printer, from fast-drying solvent inks to pigmented inks.

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It all starts here

Attractively-priced entry-level printer offering two-line printing on a variety of materials and featuring unique Sealtronic technology. more >

JET Rapid

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Specialist high-speed printer offering speeds of 800m/min for a range of high-output applications. more >

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