No more Best Before dates
11 July, 2014
The European Union is poised to scrap compulsory ‘best before’ labels on low risk foods such as coffee, rice, dry pasta, hard cheeses, jams and pickles to help reduce the estimated 100 million tons of edible food which is wasted across Europe each year.
Officials of the European Commission have tabled proposals to allow national governments to extend the list of foods that do not require ‘best before’ dates, in a move which they believe will mean 15 million tons less food a year is discarded by households wrongly worried that it is no longer fit for consumption.
The decision follows a call by Sharon Dijksma, the Dutch agriculture minister, for the EU to put its “first focus” on a campaign to reduce the food waste estimated to cost families across Europe up to €600 a year. She states “We would like to start with products you have in your home for a long time, like pasta, rice or coffee,” as these items have nothing to do with safety but with quality. Consumers can tell for themselves when food has gone off and minor changes such as “a bit of a change in colour” should not lead to foodstuffs being thrown away”.
EU legislation on labelling currently requires all food to carry a ‘best before’ date, whether the products are potentially dangerous, such as raw meat or eggs, or have a long shelf life, like frozen, dried and tinned goods. Long-life foods, such as Parmesan cheese, rice or coffee, might change colour, lose texture or have deterioration in flavour but remain edible and safe unless obviously otherwise, officials say.
“People aren’t stupid and smarter labelling can advise consumers to better understand when stable foods need to be thrown away, or not,” said a diplomat. Earlier this year vinegar – a preservative and flavouring – became one of the first widely-used foods to be exempted from the EU’s ‘best before’ legislation.
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