Some bacteria are still able to grow during refrigeration. To limit the risk of illness, WAC 246-215-03526 outlines the requirements for proper labeling of temperature and time control for safety, or TCS, foods. While many schools already implement some form of date marking, use this guide to ensure you are meeting the minimum standards as outlined in the latest code revision. As always, you can be more stringent than the code requires if that is the standard operating practice at your school/district.

Key terms:
  • AMC - Active managerial control. Part of meeting the new code updates involves the PIC demonstrating AMC. Refer to our March 2022 newsletter for additional details on what all is involved with AMC.
  • CFPM - Certified Food Protection Manager who is in charge of developing and/or training on food safety policies and procedures.
  • PIC - Person in charge of maintaining food safety standards during food prep and service.
  • RTE - Ready to eat foods. To be considered RTE, there will be no additional rinsing or cooking steps.
  • TCS - Time and temperature control for safety foods. These food items were formally known as potentially hazardous foods.

What is required:
  • RTE and TCS food items that are removed from original packaging, combined or prepared and will be held for over 24 hours must be date marked and then discarded at 7 days from opening/thawing. The day opened/thawed counts as day 1.

Food safety measures:
  • Monitor temperature of cold holding units. All food must be maintained at the proper temperature for safe date marking to apply.

How do I date mark:
How you date mark is dependent on the rules of the kitchen PIC. The key is everyone in the kitchen must know what the dates mean.
  • Select the marking method used: Decide if you will use stickers, color coding, markers or other method to mark the containers.
  • Select the date that will be used: Will you be using the open date? Discard date? Date thawed? The key is to ensure AMC and that all applicable staff are appropriately trained.
  • Identify staff: Who will be responsible for marking the items? Is it the PIC? The cook?
  • Train staff: How will training be completed? How often?

What foods require marking:
The intent of marking is to reduce the growth of Listeria on our food items. Note that this list is limited to the high risk foods. Foods of concern include:
  • deli meat (opened package);
  • soft or semi-soft cheeses (such as brie, cream cheese, ricotta);
  • pasteurized milk (opened package);
  • house-made salads (such as garden/lettuce, potato, macaroni);
  • cut produce (such as melon or lettuce cut in-house);
  • cooked and cooled foods; and
  • house-made dressings.
You do not need to date mark:
  • Unopened commercial packages.
  • Commercially made dressings, mayonnaise, and deli salads like potato salad.
  • Whole uncut produce.
  • Hard cheeses like parmesan and asiago. 
You may chose as a school/district to require additional foods to be date marked and discarded within the 7 day timeframe based on internal policies and procedures.

How will food service staff be trained:
  • This is up to the PIC and CFPM.