From restaurant to wholesale: Labeling and shelf-life for a refrigerated product

Consider how long of the shelf life your product will need, along with what labeling requirements are necessary for regulatory compliance.

Selling your restaurant’s popular food item as a refrigerated wholesale product can enhance your sales beyond your normal restaurant traffic. As you prepare for wholesaling this favorite product, consider how long of the shelf life your product will need, along with what labeling requirements are necessary for regulatory compliance.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) requires that the shelf-life be noted as seven days on your refrigerated product’s label. An exception to this is if a food lab test shows that it has a longer shelf-life than the seven-day minimum.

Keep in mind that the quality of your product may decline before its shelf-life expires, so experiment with your product and understand how these two factors work together before you set your shelf-life date for your product. This sell by date is your recommended last day of sale and will identify the month and day of expiration on the products’ label. The “sell by” working can be printed on the products label and a stamp can be used to identify the expiration date based on the date the product was made. In addition to the sell by date, the product must also have “Keep Refrigerated” on the label.

Regardless of whether you will license your product through the local health department or the MDARD, you will need to follow the shelf-life rules and all MDARD labeling guidelines for your product. Although MDARD does not require label approval before distribution is made, they will enforce labeling laws as needed. Upon request, MDARD will review labels for compliance before they are used on products.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides free business counseling for product development and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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