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Call for changes to best before labels

Call for changes to best before labels

European commissioners are calling for a change to labelling legislation that would see 'best before' dates removed from certain long-life products.
 
In proposals that would affect foods such as pickles, rice, dry pasta, coffee and jam, information about expiry would no longer be mandatory.
 
The move is part of efforts to reduce Europe's food waste mountain and European Union (EU) officials believe it could save up to 15 million tonnes of the total 100 million tonnes of food from being thrown away each year.
 
A letter has been submitted to the EU agriculture and fisheries council proposing the changes and noting: "Consumers often throw food away unnecessarily because of confusion about the meaning of the best before date. Products usually remain edible beyond this date, but are nonetheless thrown away."
 
According to the Daily Telegraph, suggestions are due to be tabled by the European Commission in June, with signatories to the letter including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Sweden.
 
Under the proposals, it would be left up to consumers to judge whether a long-life product is past its best. Under current rules, most food features a best before date, with vinegar only recently added to the list of exceptions, despite being a preservative.
 
Addressing a meeting of ministers and officials, Dutch agriculture minister Sharon Dijksma stated that best before labels on certain foodstuffs "have nothing to do with safety, but with quality. We think citizens can make sure themselves if, for instance, rice is still usable."
 
'Use by' rather than best before dates indicate that something is no longer edible and are linked to health and safety. Ms Dijksma noted that an estimated 15 per cent of food waste is thought to be caused by expiry dates.
 
The food industry in Europe is strictly regulated and use by dates are featured on foods that go off quickly such as salads, meat and fish. Storage instructions should be closely followed with these products and they should not be consumed after the use by date as consumers could be putting their health at risk.
 
However, best before dates are more about safety than health, as beyond the date shown products can start to lose texture and flavour but may well still be edible.

 

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