Use-by date or “best before” date: EFSA is drafting a guide for food industry manufacturers

Dec 17, 2020
Sébastien Bouley

EFSA has developed a tool (or guide) to help food business operators decide when to apply the best before date or minimum durability date to their products.

  • The use-by date for food is about safety: food can be eaten until then, but not after, even if it looks and smells good.
  • The “best before” of minimum durability date refers to the quality: the food can be consumed safely after this date but may not be of the same quality.

The European Commission has estimated that up to 10% of the 88 million tonnes of food waste produced in the EU each year is linked to dating on food products.

The tool is structured as a decision tree with a series of questions that the food industry operators must respond to, the objective being to help them decide whether an expiration date or a minimum durability date is required. The questions aim in particular to determine whether the date marking requirements for a category of foodstuffs are already regulated by law, whether a product is subjected to treatment to eliminate dangerous hazards, whether it is re-handled before the packaging, what are its characteristics and storage conditions.

The EFSA Scientific Panel on Biological Risks will publish another opinion on this subject in 2021. This opinion will focus on informing consumers about storage conditions, consumption times after opening and defrosting practices.

For more information, you can consult the EFSA guide for food industry manufacturers.

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