Food Coding best practices are put into place to provide for consumer safety, and to ensure that products at retail meet consumer expectations. Some requirements are set by industry convention, some by government regulation while others are set by standards organizations such as ISO.

Knowing which standards to adhere to may be confusing. Regulations can vary not only by the country in which production happens, but also by the country in which a product will be sold, and by the industry or category of the specific product in question. It is important for any manufacturer of food products to be aware of the prevailing legal requirements for their home country, as well as the regulations for any countries in which they may be selling their products.

yellow ink printed on black cracker box
lot code printed on plastic ketchup bottle top
best before expiration date printed on chip bag
usda inspection stamp printed on beef

Best practices include not simply adhering to mandated standards, but also meeting consumer expectations. For example, many date coding requirements in place for products at the retail level are not legally mandated, but instead are a matter of industry convention, attempting to meet consumer expectations for product freshness or viability.

Date Coding:

Whether it be for a “Best By” date, “Sell By” date, or a production date, many categories of food have required or recommended specifications for product dating.

Lot Coding:

Traceability is another important concept in Food Coding nomenclature. Being able to identify the sources of ingredients or components in food is important to identifying quality control issues and limiting the scope of a recall.

Country of Origin:

Because of the globalization of the food supply chain, Country of Origin coding is now a requirement of many food products at the retail level in many countries.


Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is an internationally recognized method of identifying and managing food safety related risk. When central to an active food safety program, HACCP can provide your customers, the public, and regulatory agencies assurance that a food safety program is well managed.

ISO 22000:

ISO 22000 is a Food Safety Management System set of criteria. It sets out the requirements for food safety management systems and is a standard which can be certified to. It maps out what an organization needs to do to demonstrate its ability to control food safety hazards in order to ensure that food is safe. It can be used by any organization regardless of its size or position in the food chain.

Industries where Food Marking and Coding Standards Apply:

Produce, Dairy, Fresh Meat & Poultry, Beverage, Frozen Foods, Dehydrated Foods, Grocery Wholesale, Dry Goods

Substrates and Typical Printing Applications:

Cardboard, Plastic Containers, Plastic Film and Shrink Wrap, Glass, Metal, Egg Shells, Directly on Food (using edible or foodsafe inks), Mylar Bags, Curved Surfaces, Irregular Surfaces

plastic food bag with imprint

We’ve compiled a list of informative articles on the subject of Food Marking and Coding available through the links below.

The Good News:

While the requirements of Food Coding Best Standards may vary regionally and nationally, one common denominator to all of them is our Handheld Inkjet line of Marking and Coding Equipment. We can help you achieve compliance to all these regulations.

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