Europe wants to extend list of products without mandatory best-before date

A large majority of European Union Member States wants the European Commission to extend the list of products not requiring a best-before date. That is the outcome of the proposal from Dutch Minister for Agriculture Sharon Dijksma and her Swedish counterpart to combat food waste. Products such as pasta, rice and coffee have a good chance of being added to the list. The packaging of these products still indicates a best-before date, even though these products cannot really expire. That leads to food waste. Consumers must also be better informed about the confusing date information on products and a study must be conducted to find out if more European legislation would contribute to even higher food waste.

Breakthrough

“It would be great if products such as coffee, pasta and rice would remain in European kitchen cupboards until they are consumed, and don’t end up unused in the bin for no good reason,” the Minister said. “It is a breakthrough that many countries have reached a decision about addressing food waste. Consumers are confused about the best-before dates and that leads to many kilos of non-consumed food needlessly being thrown out. Addressing food shortages will increasingly become a huge challenge due to the growing world population. It is therefore important to take action now.”

Alternatives

In addition to extending the list of products not requiring a best-before date, it is important that consumers get more information about the meaning of these dates. The best-before date informs the consumer that a product no longer meets prevailing quality standards, for example because of a change in colour. However, the safety of the product is assured for a much longer period, sometimes for months beyond the best-before date. Consumers are often unaware of this. Around 15% of food waste is caused by the best-before dates on packaging. As there is a lot of confusion about the best-before dates, countries have indicated that we should also consider alternatives such as adding the production date on the packaging.

The Netherlands to host international food waste conference

It is estimated that in Europe, 89 million tonnes of food are wasted annually, while natural resources for food production are under pressure. Food waste is a social and economic problem. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that a 25% reduction in food waste worldwide is the equivalent amount of food that can feed 500 million people. This year the Netherlands will organise an international conference to address food waste. Through climate smart agriculture solutions, the Netherlands is also urging other countries all over the world to reduce food shortages by helping small farmers increase their production.