"Consume by" and "consume preferably", from today the expiry dates of foods are simpler for companies

EFSA has created a new tool for companies that helps them set the best expiration method avoiding food waste

Don't store avocado like this: it's dangerous

There is still a lot of confusion on food labels, in particular regarding the words "to be consumed by" or "to be consumed preferably by". Even food companies often don't know which one is best to apply to their products. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has decided to clarify to avoid food waste as much as possible.

A team of European experts has developed a system to help food companies to correctly apply the wording "to be consumed by" o "Best before". As you will surely remember, in the first case the expiration date is mandatory to avoid possible health problems while in the second case consumers are warned that, after that day, the food remains safe to eat but may have lost its quality and some nutritional characteristics. .

The new tool made available by EFSA for food businesses consists of 10 questions and their answers to help decide whether to use a "best before" or "best before" date. A decision that must be made on the basis of the product, considering the relevant hazards, characteristics, processing and storage conditions.

In practice it is a decision tree which, case by case, and question after question, leads to the choice of one or the other option.

#DateMarking on #FoodProducts : “Best before” and “Use by”, do you know the difference? Stay tuned to learn more about it! pic.twitter.com/IuJcUL6qnq

— EFSA (@EFSA_EU) December 1, 2020


All this is done with a view to avoiding food waste. A very serious problem considering that the European Commission estimated in 2018 that up to 10% of the 88 million tons of food waste generated each year in the EU is linked to the expiry date on products.

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that consumer uncertainty about expiration dates on packaged food labels is believed to contribute to about 20 percent of food waste occurring in American homes.

"Clear and correct information on the packaging and a better understanding and application ofIndication of the appropriate date on food by all stakeholders can help reduce food waste in the EUwhile continuing to ensure food safety. The scientific opinion represents a step forward in this direction, ”said Kostas Koutsoumanis, chair of the EFSA expert group on biological hazards.

Topics covered in the questions include frozen storage of the product, whether the food receives treatment to eliminate any hazards, the potential for re-contamination prior to packaging, whether the product supports the growth or toxin production of pathogenic bacteria, and the presence of preservatives as well as the storage atmosphere.

For example, if there is no pathogen elimination stage or there is the possibility of re-contamination after such treatment, the risk to the consumer is expected to increase over the shelf life and an expiration date is required accordingly.

EFSA's experts also looked at the factors to consider when determining how long a given food remains safe and of quality when packaged intact.

In fact, bear in mind that in some countries it is allowed to market food after the "best before" date, provided that the food is fit for human consumption.

Due to the variability between products and consumer habits, experts could not provide precise time limits for food donated or marketed beyond the expiration date.

In 2021, however, a further scientific opinion will arrive, again by EFSA, on storage conditions and limits for consumption after opening.

Sources: EFSA / FSN

Read also:

  • When to consume food regardless of the expiration date
  • Nine foods "without" expiration date
  • 10 foods you can eat after the expiration date (but also not!)
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