Date marking and food waste

Date marking and food waste

Better understanding and use of date marking on food, i.e. "use by" and "best before" dates, by all actors concerned, can prevent and reduce food waste in the EU.

A recent study carried out by the European Commission, published in February 2018, estimates that up to 10% of the 88 million tonnes of food waste generated annually in the EU are linked to date marking.

Misinterpretation by consumers of the meaning of these dates can contribute to household food waste. How date marking is utilised by food business operators and regulatory authorities in managing the supply chain can also have an impact on food waste. For example, the approaches followed by food business operators in defining date marking (eg whether to utilise a "use by" or "best before" date), market practices (such as the amount of shelf life required by retailers on product delivery) and national rules on the further distribution and use of foods past the "best before" date can all influence the generation of food waste in the supply chain.

The Commission is considering possible options to simplify date marking on foodstuffs and promote better understanding and use of date marking by all actors concerned. A dedicated sub-group of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste on date marking has been established to discuss possible options and guide all work in this area involving all actors concerned: public authorities in EU Member States, food business operators, consumer - and other NGOs.

If any changes to EU food labelling rules are proposed in the future, it is critical that these:

  • meet consumer information needs,

  • can contribute to food waste reduction,

  • do not put consumer safety at risk.

Meetings of the sub-group on date marking

Market study on date marking and food waste prevention

Consumer research related to date marking

Information materials - infographic and leaflet