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Understanding “Best Before” and “Use By” Dates on Food Labelling

Created by: Ffion Batcup
Created on: 18th August 2017
Authors: European Commission

Overview

It is estimated that a considerable share of household food waste (15-33%, depending on the studies) could be linked to date marking due, amongst others, to consumer misunderstanding of the meaning of these dates.

The European Commission has published a short explanatory guide on the different meaning of “use by” and “best before” dates in order to help promote better understanding and use of these dates by consumers, operators in the food chain and regulatory authorities. The leaflet includes information on how to interpret date marking and other instructions found on food packaging and it also includes a list of translations of “use by” and “best before” dates in all EU languages, making it easier for the consumer to identify the correct term.

Further information on the Commission’s work related to food waste prevention can be found on the Commission’s dedicated Food Waste website: http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste_en.

Contact name: European Commission, Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety
Contact email: SANTE-FOOD-WASTE@ec.europa.eu
More info link: http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste/eu_actions/date_marking_en

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4 Comments

  • Matthew Grainger|1 month ago

    Does anyone know where the 15-33% figure comes from – which studies?




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    • Kate Bygrave

      Kate Bygrave|1 month ago

      This figure seems to have been taken from the Commission website – it is referenced in this document: https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/fw_eu_actions_tech-specs_2016-e1-024_annex2.pdf which in turn cites the following as a reference: ‘Note from the Netherlands and Sweden to the Agriculture Council of the European Union, May 2014; WRAP (2008b) The Food We Waste”‘




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      • Kate Bygrave

        Kate Bygrave|1 month ago

        For the UK, the following is a more relevant and recent report: Household Food & Drink Waste – A Product Focus, WRAP 2014 (which is a resource on this site!) This states: ‘48% (2.0 million tonnes) of avoidable waste was cited as ‘not being used in time’. A date label was mentioned as the trigger for disposal for one third of such instances (around 660,000 tonnes; 16% of all avoidable food waste). The products most often disposed of for this reason were dairy and eggs (mainly yoghurt & yoghurt drink and eggs) followed by drink (predominantly fruit juice and smoothies)’ WRAP also published the following report on a detailed piece of research on date labelling and food waste: Consumer insight: date labels and storage guidance, WRAP 2011; http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/consumer-insight-date-labels-and-storage-guidance




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  • Anne-Laure Gassin|1 month ago

    Dear Matthew, the figures are indeed from the Commission website. If you would like to write in to SANTE-FOOD-WASTE@ec.europa.eu, we can provide you with further details as it is difficult to copy/paste references in this comment box. Anne-Laure Gassin, policy officer, DG Health and Food Safety, European Commission




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