The US Food and Drug Administration requires us to put on our jar a “produced on” date, but not a “sell by” or “best by” date. Here’s why:
Randall beans are some of the very few food products that the US FDA certifies as being “commercially sterile” (ie as sterile as, say, surgical instruments). This is due to the production process: The beans are placed in jars, the jars are seal with caps, and the sealed jars are heated to a high enough temperature so that all microbes are killed. So as long as the jar’s seal is not broken, Randall beans are microbe-free, and hence have an indefinite shelf life. The flavor degrades somewhat over time, but they are always safe to eat. So Randall beans last virtually forever.
That said, we generally recommend that you discard rather than eat a jar of Randall beans that is more than a year old. While Randall beans have an indefinite “shelf life” we find that the flavor degrades slightly after a year, and we want you to taste Randall beans at their best.
In case you are interested, here is what the code on our jars tell you:
A typical code looks like this: TGN12001AA .
- The first letter is for the production location (T = our only plant, located in Tekonsha, MI).
- The next 1 or 2 letters are for the product type (GN = Great Northern beans, P = Pinto beans, M = Mixed beans).
- The next 2 digits are for the production year (10 = 2010, 11 = 2011, 12 = 2012, etc.).
- The next 3 digits are for the production day (001 = Jan 1st, 002 = Jan 2nd, … , 365 = Dec 31st)
- The next 1 or 2 letters are for the production batch (A = 1st batch, B = 2nd batch, … AA = 27th batch, AB = 28th batch, etc)
So the code TGN12001AA tells you that it is a jar of Great Northern beans produced in our Tekonsha plant on January 1, 2012 in the 27th batch of the day.