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Maintenance of USDA Commodities at Distributors

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors, County Superintendents of Schools, Diocesan Superintendents of Schools

Number: 00-412

Attention: Food Service Directors, USDA Foods Processors, Distributors, and Warehouses

Date: October 2000

Subject: Maintenance of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Commodities at Distributors, Warehouses, and Storage Facilities

Reference: Management Bulletins 00-403, 00-404, 00-405, and 00-408; FD-5, USDA Western Region Office

As a result of recent audits, the Office of Inspector General has recommended that we provide a reminder regarding the recommended storage and handling procedures for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) commodities.

Recipient agencies must ensure that USDA commodity foods maintain wholesomeness. Storage and inventory management practices are the key components to this assurance.

The following guidelines will ensure optimum usage of commodities and should be included in all distributor, warehouse, and storage facility contracts:

  • Best if Used By (BIUB) Dates
    The BIUB dates are based on the number of months after the product is processed that it can be stored at recommended temperatures and still retain its best flavor, nutritional value, and overall quality. Although BIUB dates are estimates, USDA recommends that commodities be used prior to their BIUB dates. Recommended BIUB dates for specific commodities may be found on the USDA Food Distribution Web site at (select "Commodity Fact Sheets"). You may also reference Management Bulletin 00-403, "USDA Best if Used By Procedures."
  • Monitor Age of Commodities
    The pack date, or the initial receipt date, should be monitored to determine the age of commodities. This is especially important when commodities are transferred between agencies. Agencies accepting a transferred item should always be notified of the age of a commodity before it is transferred. Transfers should only be accepted if there is sufficient time to use the commodity while it is in optimum condition.
  • First In-First Out (FIFO)
    As a general rule, agencies and warehouses should follow the first-in-first-out method of stock rotation. Foods that are packaged first or received first should be used first. Refer to Management Bulletin 00-405, "Inventory Management Guidelines for USDA Commodities" for further information.
  • Commodity Ordering
    As you know, current inventory supplies should be considered before ordering commodities, with a goal of no more than a six-month supply of any commodity item in stock. Commodities should only be ordered if they can be used while they are at their optimum freshness. Customer preference and menu usage are also important factors when ordering commodities.
  • Monitor Temperatures
    Daily temperature logs must be kept for all storage areas storing donated foods. When temperatures are not within the acceptable range, immediate corrective action should be taken. Recommended storage temperatures for specific commodities may be found on the USDA Food Distribution Web site at (select "Commodity Fact Sheets"). For more information, refer to Management Bulletin 00-404, "Proper Storage Temperatures for USDA Commodities" and Management Bulletin 00-408, "Clarification to Management Bulletin 00-404: Proper Storage Temperatures for USDA Commodities."
Questions: Amy Bell | | 800-952-5609 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, May 9, 2017
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