The Julian date code represents the last digit of the year and the day of the year when read from left to right. These codes are used to indicate the date when a food item was packaged.
The Julian date code was first developed for use by the United States military in packaging Meals-Ready-to-Eat for soldiers. Using only four numbers, the Julian date code quickly shows how old a canned or packaged food item is at a glance. All that is needed is a basic understanding of how the code works.
The first number in a four-digit Julian date code represents the last digit of the year that items was packaged. For instance, if the first number is 9, then the food item was packaged in 2009. The remaining three numbers in the Julian date code represent the day of the year that item was packaged. There are 365 days in each year, so it is simple to track. For instance, a three-digit number of 228 indicates that the food item was packaged on February 28 of that year.
Not all food manufacturers use the Julian date code. Many have their own codes that may be based on the Julian date code or also contain information that details what is in the package or the facility where the item was packaged.