Shelf life is defined as the period or amount of time a perishable product can remain safe to eat when presented for sale. Depending on location meaning state or country shelf life and shelf life designation requirements are quite different. For the average consumer it is a good idea to pay specific attention to the shelf life of the product. In the case of barbecue sauce an average product should have shelf life in excess of 12 months. In certain states shelf life is tightly controlled by the State Agricultural commission while others control it locally by the county and still others control it by Federal standards.
Typically during the development of the recipe a test batch of the proposed target product is run at a controlled location, either a processing place, state approved kitchen or licensed restaurant which is inspected by the local health authority. That sample is then tested for Brix and pH levels, then tightly sealed in containers and shipped off to the authority for testing. In California once the product is tested by the State it receives what is known as an "S" number. This is the only number given to indicate that the product is safe for human consumption and meets their rigorous standards. The state primarily tests and determines how long it takes a product to react and produce mold spores and gases. From those spore tests a timeframe is extrapolated and the state will provide a range of months in which it feels the product can be safely held on store shelves either refrigerated or un-refrigerated.
A Barbecue sauce may identify its use as 12 months but because of the ingredients contained but may only last 3 months after opening. Most labeled sauces have either the address or website on the container or a manufacturers location written on the side. On the internet one can send an email to the website host to question not only the longevity of the sauce but its lividity as well. If a Barbecue sauce has been opened the product should remain usable for a minimum of ½ the overall shelf life. This of course depends on the conditions in which the product is stored, i.e, room temperature, not over 75 degrees F, or in overly moist area that can promote mold.
As for coding, there are a number of ways to identify the shelf life date on containers. Some containers will identify the date with Useby011012 which is interpreted as the product is "best" used by January 10, 2012. Note the term "best" does not mean that the product automatically spoils once it reaches that date. Instead the term is meant to identify that the greatest or peak flavor of the product is achieved prior to that date and will decrease over time following that date. Also, in the case of products containing a BestBy date this gives an indication of peak flavor but is meant not to alarm the consumer which in some cases will simply throw out products with many months of use left on them simply because of a misinterpretation of the labeling. Further some manufacturers will use lot numbers such as 8095B1618 to identify their product dates. This information requires the sales location or the producer to identify the production date and the shelf life.
To achieve maximum purchase value and usage it pays to be aware of the shelf life of products.
Jake's products maintain varying shelf life's for instance our BBQ Sauce has a minimum Best By shelf life of 18 months. Our Dry Rub Seasonings and Taco Seasonings have a minimum Best By shelf life of 24 months. Our Marinades have a minimum Best By shelf life of 18 months. And our All Natural Ketchup has a minimum Best By shelf life of 18 months.