Each product entry on our site Yoshon.com displays either the Status of a product, or a “Date Code” in orange. The Status is simple — it is whether a product is Yoshon, or must have certain criteria, (such as needing a “Yoshon” label), in order for that product to be yoshon. However, most product entries on our site will display a “Date Code”. In order to determine the product’s status, the date code printed on your package must be compared to the date code listed in orange on our site. To be yoshon, your package must be earlier.

But What is a Date Code? A Date Code is a date printed on a package of food. It can either be a “Packing Date”, telling when a product was made, or a “Best By Date” telling when the company believes the food is no longer quite as fresh. A few products may have both printed on a package, which makes it very easy to know whether a product is yoshon or not. However, most products usually have either one or the other. The Date Code is our starting point in figuring out the product’s yoshon status.

A manufacturing date or “Lot Code” is the easiest way to figure out a product’s status. That is the exact day it was made! It is simply compared to the General Cutoff Date for the Grain Ingredient in the product. If it is on or before the Cutoff Date for that grain, it is yoshon.

A Best by Date is a little bit harder to figure out, because one needs to know the shelf life time of the product. The shelf life time is subtracted from the Best By Date in order to get the manufacturing date, which then is compared to the General Cutoff Date. Fortunately, we have the calculations all figured out for products which have a Best By Date. How to do this on your own is discussed in another article, “How to Calculate Date Codes“.

In either case, the Date Code on a package must always be on or before the Cutoff Date for the particular grain ingredient in the product.

A handy printable list of General Cutoff Dates can be downloaded from our site, which tells you the last day in which a product is yoshon.

Cutoff Dates

The “Cut-Off Date” is the last day that a product is still Yoshon. Any date after that, the product becomes Chodosh.

There are Five Grains that the Mitzvah of Yoshon pertain to. Two types, Rye and Spelt are winter crops and are automatically yoshon, so they do not need to go by Cutoff Dates. The other three, Oats, Wheat and Barley all have cutoff dates. These are the different grains and grain products having their own specific cutoff dates:

    • Plain Wheat Flour (as-is)
    • All Pasta (Durum Wheat)
    • Any Other Wheat Products
    • Oats and Oat Products
    • Barley and Barley Products
    • Beer (made from Barley Malt)
    • Barley Malt

The General Grain Cutoff Dates are updated every year, and listed in our General Cutoff Dates Sheet.

All Yoshon calculations are determined from the Cutoff Date for the particular type of Grain Ingredient in a product. These dates change every single year, since crop planting dates are based on the Hebrew date of two days before Passover. These cutoff dates are released every year. They differ every year, and one year’s cutoff dates cannot be used for subsequent years. 

The Yoshon status of a product is determined by two factors — the Date Code on a product, and the Cutoff Date for the the specific Grain Ingredient. (If there are multiple grains, it always goes by the earliest grain.)

For our purposes of figuring out if a product is yoshon or chodosh, a date code listed on our site in orange, is the “Cutoff Date”, meaning it is the last day in which a product is considered to be Yoshon.

This date is always determined by the actual Packing or Manufacturing Date of a product. Packing Date Codes (sometimes known as “Lot Codes”) are  sometimes printed on a product. Various formats are used depending on the brand or company, but they all convey the date when the product was actually made.

The manufacturing date of a product made from the particular grain or grain product within the list, must have been made on or before that cutoff date in order to be Yoshon.

Types of Date Codes

Packing Dates can be listed either by the Gregorian Date (the typical secular calendar) or by the Julian Date (numbered days of the year). These are the most obvious and helpful Date Codes of all. If you know an actual date of packing, you will automatically know if a product is Yoshon or Chodosh in relation to the Start Date. As stated above in “Chodosh Date”, occasionally a product will be listed only by a month and year. Although it seems pretty confusing, it is actually very simple.

Gregorian Packing Dates:
Below is a Granola Bar with an actual Gregorian Packing Date. If the year is 2015, and the item was packed February 1st, the actual Packing Date is Feb 1, 2015.

Julian Packing Dates:
Also known as “Lot Codes”, these are listed with the day of the year (February 1st being Day 032) and the last number of the year listed either before or after it. If the Packing Date was August 31, 2021 (Aug 31st being the 243rd day of the year), the Julian Code could be listed as either 1243 or 2431.
Sometimes it can be as 5 digits. If the Packing Date was August 31, 2021 using the above example, the Julian Code could be listed as either 21243 or 24321.
(See our Julian Date Cheat Sheets for helpful deciphering.)

Best By Dates:
These are the dates with the Shelf Life time added on. The package of cereal below has a Shelf Life of 360 days (5 days less than 1 year). If the item was packed August 13, 2012 with a Shelf Life of 360 days, the Best By Date would be August 8, 2013.

Julian Best By Dates:
Although not very common, these are dates in the Julian format as mentioned above, with the Shelf Life added onto the year. If the year is 2020, and the Packing Date was October 16th (day 289) with a 2-year Shelf Life, the code could be 28922 or 22289.

Packing Date Codes  or Lot Codes:
These usually require explanation and are a bit harder to figure out, but not at all impossible when you know what it really means. It is explained parenthetically in the Date Code section on our site. Sometimes it will be a Julian Date, other times a Packing or Best By Date, but usually it has some superfluous numbers or letters before or after the Date Code. Suppose a product has a code AA03316ZZ. The AA may be a factory identity and the ZZ may be shift information. The real code is in between- 033 is February 2nd, and the 16 is the year in which it was packed. In our example below of 9078124, the 9 is a useless (to us) shift number, the 078 is March 19th (the 78th day), the 12 is 2012, and the 4 is a plant identifier (also not needed by us). Mystery solved, the Packing Date is March 19, 2012!

Most often, the packing date is the first 4 or 5 digits, but if a code as below is listed on our site, it will be explained in parenthesis after the code.

A Note About the “Malt Date”:
If your Rav goes by the opinion that the amount of Barley Malt (Malt or Malt Extract) is “Batul” or so insignificant of an amount added to flour that it doesn’t matter, then you don’t need to worry about the Malt Date. If your Rav does hold that it matters, then check on the package of your product for the Best By Date. If Malt appears in the ingredients, find the Best By Date which is listed in “Date Code” in “Additional Info”.

The Date Code system for keeping Yoshon can sound very intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. As you look up products on our site, simply click on “Additional Info” to see all the pertinent information you need. We have another page that explains more on How to Calculate Date Codes.

Happy deciphering!

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If you need to learn about date codes and keeping yoshon in general, this is a great book for newcomers. It makes a great gift for family members who want to learn as well.

Updated As Of:
March 7, 2024