Best-before dates could be scrapped on some food packs

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

best-before packaging use-by
The EU could scrap the requirement for best-before labels on certain foods in an effort to cut food waste.

At this week’s meeting of the agriculture and fisheries council – which brings together ministers responsible for policy areas – calls were made to extend the list of products that could be exempt from needing a ‘best before’ label.

In many European countries, date labelling is causing unnecessary food waste,”​ said an information note from the Netherlands and Sweden, backed by Austrian, Danish, German and Luxembourg delegations.

“[We] are of the opinion that probably more products, which have a long shelf life and retain their quality for a very long time, could be exempted from the requirement to provide a ‘best before’ date on the label​.”

Foods which don’t currently require a best-before date include vinegar, cooking salt and wine. This could be extended to products such as dry pasta, rice or coffee.

The ‘best before’ date indicates the period in which food will be in optimal condition, and although it may reduce in quality after this date it should still be edible.

Consumers often throw food away unnecessarily because of confusion about the meaning of the ‘best before’ date​,” the delegations said.

Products usually remain edible beyond this date, but are nonetheless thrown away. Confusion among consumers about ‘best before’ dates must be removed.”

Up to a third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted, and that means as much as 100m tonnes of food is wasted in the EU every year.

The Commission is looking at reducing waste by getting more fresh food to food banks (that would otherwise be wasted); making better use of food waste in animal feed, and putting an end to confusion over date labelling.

The Commission has been thinking about amending the legislation for some time now,”​ Aikaterini Apostola, spokesperson, European Commission, told

The idea would not be to delete the ‘best before’ label, but to extend to some products the possibility of not putting it on the label.

In fact, the Commission is preparing a communication of ‘Food sustainability’ with adoption foreseen for next month. On the substance we cannot say much at this stage, since discussions are still on-going.”

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