Days after the Food Information for Consumers Regulation came into force on December 13 2014, Vytenis Andriukaitis, health and food safety commissioner at the European Commission (EC), has proposed even more labelling changes.
A spokeswoman for Andriukaitis told our sister title Food Manufacture magazine the EC was considering various options to simplify date marking on food. These could see an extension of the list of products, which already includes vinegar, sugar and salt, exempted from ‘best-before’ date labelling, she said.
Another option could include the modification of the terminology used for date marking on food labelling, she added. “This would be appropriate in particular if there is evidence that alternate wording is better understood and more useful to consumers.”
Simplifying date labelling to get rid of terminology such as ‘best-before’ has been discussed for many years, as food manufacturers continued to seek ways of reducing the 15Mt of food wasted in the UK annually. It is claimed that more than 15% of UK food waste is discarded as a result of consumer confusion over date labelling.
Glenis Willmott, a UK Member of the European Parliament, questioned whether ‘best-before’ labelling served any purpose and raised her concerns with Andriukaitis in December.
“We have had a number of queries raised about best-before date labelling and as food waste is such a problem, it’s essential that consumers are given the best information,” Willmott's spokesman said.
In a written response to Willmott, Andriukaitis agreed it was important consumers were helped to reduce food waste by being given more accurate information. “It’s important to define between ‘best-before’ and ‘end-of’ dates – there’s a misunderstanding between those,” he said.
Consumers are using date labels incorrectly, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). The ‘best-before’ label was the trigger for one-in-eight (12%) decisions to throw bread away, even though it could be consumed for a few days after, statistics from a recent WRAP report showed.