EU considers options to simplify date marking of foods.

  • The European Commission has acknowledged that better understanding and use of date marking codes on food products (e.g., “use by” and “best before” dates) can minimize food waste in Europe.
  • To evaluate this subject, the Commission conducted pan-European quantitative consumer research to assess citizens’ attitudes to food waste and their awareness, understanding, and use of date marking on food products.  The research findings showed that EU consumers generally have difficulty differentiating between “use by” and best before” labeling.  The “use by” date can be found in the EU on products that are highly perishable and susceptible to microbial contamination, and which are likely to pose an immediate danger to human health after a short period of time.  The “best before” date is placed on all other products and consumer judgment is the determining factor in consuming the food once that date has passed.  The study conducted by the Commission showed that misunderstanding of date marking practices leads to an increase in food waste.
  • The Commission is considering possible options to simplify date marking on foods, e.g., expanding the list of foods exempt from the obligation to include a “best before” date or modifying the terminology used in “best before” labeling.  The Commission also has drafted educational materials to improve consumer understanding of existing date marking practices.  The food industry should stay tuned for potential developments in this area in the future.