How do you read the expiry date on Ocean Spray cranberry sauce?

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Cranberry sauce is a traditional condiment served with turkey and other foods at holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rich, tart flavor of cranberry sauce complements savory entrees perfectly. Ocean Spray is one of the most popular brands of canned and bottled cranberry sauce. When purchasing and serving Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, it’s important to pay attention to the expiration date on the packaging to ensure safety and quality.

There are a few simple things to look for when reading the expiry date on Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Knowing how to locate and interpret the date label will help you serve fresh cranberry sauce that has been safely stored and handled.

Types of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce

Ocean Spray offers cranberry sauce in a few different formats:

– Whole berry cranberry sauce – Contains real, visible cranberry skins and seeds suspended in a gel. Sold in cans or jars.

– Smooth cranberry sauce – A uniform, smooth texture without visible skins or seeds. Sold in cans.

– Jellied cranberry sauce – The classic shaped gel log that can be sliced. Sold in cans.

– Dried cranberries – Sweetened, dried cranberries. Sold in bags.

The expiration date format and location varies based on the type of cranberry sauce:

Expiration Date Format

There are two main types of expiration date formats used by Ocean Spray:

Best By Date

Most Ocean Spray cranberry sauce products are marked with a “Best By” date. This date indicates how long the cranberry sauce retains peak quality when stored properly. The sauce remains safe to eat and maintains nutritional value for a period after this date, but its texture and flavor will start declining.

The Best By date is typically formatted as:

– MM/DD/YYYY (ex. 11/24/2023)

– Month and Year (ex. NOV 2023)

Use By or Expiration Date

Some varieties of Ocean Spray dried cranberries are marked with a “Use By” or “Expiration” date. This is the last date recommended for use to ensure the optimum quality and safety. The dried cranberries should not be eaten after this date.

The Use By/Expiration date is formatted as:


– Month/Year

Locating the Expiration Date

For canned and jarred cranberry sauce, look on the top lid for the stamped Best By date. Make sure to check the top of the can, not just the sides or bottom.

For dried cranberries in bagged packaging, check the front of the bag near the top. The Best By or Use By date is usually printed near the product name and UPC barcode.

Once opened, the Best By date no longer applies. An opened jar or can of cranberry sauce will stay safe about 1 week after opening if refrigerated.

Safety Tips

Here are some key tips for safely storing and handling Ocean Spray cranberry sauce:

– Purchase cranberry sauce before its Best By or Use By date.

– Inspect cans and jar lids for damage, rust, bulging or cracks which can impact safety. Never eat from a compromised container.

– Store unopened cranberry sauce in a cool, dry spot below 75°F like a pantry or cupboard. Avoid direct sunlight which can degrade quality over time.

– Refrigerate opened cranberry sauce in a covered container and use within 1 week.

– Look for changes in texture, color, smell or flavor that signal spoilage like sliminess, discoloration, off odors or sour taste. When in doubt, throw it out.

– Rinse dried cranberries before use to remove excess sugars. Pat dry if the berries will not be immediately consumed.

– Discard dried cranberries that are discolored, moldy or have an unpleasant smell.

Expiration Date Labeling Issues

Ocean Spray has faced some issues around unclear or missing expiration dates on certain cranberry sauce products over the years. Some things to watch out for include:

– Faded ink dates – Canned foods often have stamped date codes that fade over time, making them difficult to read.

– Conflicting dates – If you find cans with varying dates, contact Ocean Spray to determine if there is an issue.

– Missing or hard to locate dates – If you cannot find a date printed on a package, reach out to Ocean Spray to verify when it was produced.

Always inspect cranberry sauce closely and exercise caution if you are unable to confirm an accurate expiration date. When in doubt, do not consume the product. Contact Ocean Spray directly for guidance if needed.

How Cranberry Sauce Expiration Dates Are Determined

Ocean Spray conducts extensive food safety and quality testing to determine appropriate shelf life and establish Best By and Use By dates for their cranberry sauces. Here is an overview of their process:

Safety Testing

– BacT/Alert microbial detection – This system detects microbial growth by measuring carbon dioxide production to confirm products are safe for consumption.

– High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) – Used to identify the presence of organic acids like benzoate, an additive that inhibits microbial growth.

– Thermal process authority – Verifies the production process effectively destroys potential pathogens and spoilage organisms.

Quality Analysis

– Viscosity testing – Measures thickness and gel strength over time. A significant decrease signals lower quality.

– Colorimetry – Monitors color change during storage which relates to flavor stability.

– Analytical texture profile – Determines changes in cranberry skin firmness and elasticity.

– Simulated shelf life studies – Product is stored under controlled conditions and tested periodically to estimate shelf life.

Labeling Determination

– Best By and Use By dates are established based on the most conservative safety and quality test results, storage conditions, product history and consumer usage data.

– Dates are adjusted based on factors like product differences, seasonal variances, processing changes or new data.

What to Do if Cranberry Sauce is Past its Date

If you discover an unopened can or jar of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce past its Best By date, it should still be safe to consume as long as the package is in good condition. You may notice slight changes in texture, color or flavor since it is beyond peak quality. Use your best judgment to determine if it is acceptable for serving.

If dried cranberries are past their Use By date, they should be discarded. Dried fruit has a higher risk of microbial growth when stored too long.

If you’ve already opened and prepared cranberry sauce that is now past its Best By date, look for signs of spoilage before eating. Cranberry sauce can be unsafe past one week after opening. When in doubt, throw it out.

Do not take chances with suspect cranberry sauce. If ever unsure about the safety of a cranberry sauce product based on date labels or other factors, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the expiration date stamped on Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce?

The Best By date is stamped on the top lid of the can. Make sure to check this area instead of just the sides or bottom.

How long does unopened cranberry sauce last past its Best By date?

Most unopened cranberry sauce remains safe for some period past its Best By date, but quality degrades over time. Consume soon for best flavor and texture.

Can I eat Ocean Spray dried cranberries after the Use By date?

No, dried cranberries should not be consumed after their Use By or Expiration date. Discard any bags past this date.

My cranberry sauce was left out overnight. Is it still safe to eat?

Cranberry sauce left at room temperature or warmer for over 2 hours should be discarded. Bacteria can multiply quickly in the temperature danger zone between 40°F-140°F.

How can I tell if opened cranberry sauce has gone bad?

Signs of spoiled opened cranberry sauce include mold, unpleasant odor, change in color, slimy texture, or sour flavor. If you detect any signs of spoilage, play it safe and throw it away.


By understanding Ocean Spray cranberry sauce date labeling, proper storage, signs of spoilage, and handling best practices, you can safely enjoy this holiday staple. Locate and verify the Best By or Use By date prior to purchase and consumption. Then store cranberry sauce properly in cool, dry storage or the refrigerator to optimize freshness and flavor. With a little care and common sense, your cranberry sauce can be a delicious part of meals without worrying about foodborne illness.

Cranberry Sauce Type Date Label Date Format Date Location
Canned whole berry or jellied Best By MM/DD/YYYY
Top lid
Dried cranberries Use By or Expiration MM/DD/YYYY
Front of bag

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