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'Use By' and 'Best Before' labels - a new EU plan to cut down on food waste

In partnership with The European Commission
'Use By' and 'Best Before' labels - a new EU plan to cut down on food waste
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Denis Loctier
Published on Updated
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Have you ever been confused by dates on food? You're not alone. Half of European consumers aren't clear about the precise meaning of the labels like 'Use By' and 'Best Before'; food uneccessarily gets wasted as a result. But the EU's REFRESH project is aiming to stop that.

Over 50% of the food waste which occurs within the European Union takes place in people's households. But there are plans to drastcially reduce that. 

As part of the Farm to Fork Strategy’s action plan, the European Commission is to propose legally- binding targets for food waste reduction to be in place by 2023. 

In particular, these plans will also revise EU rules on date-marking (such as ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ dates) in order to avoid unnecessary discarding of food, which has been linked to a misunderstanding of their meaning. 

In the Netherlands, the EU-funded REFRESH project is running a public awareness campaign that includes a TV ad explaining how dates on the food packages can be different. 

Toine Timmermans, the project coordinator, explains:

"Research has shown that about 50% of European consumers aren't clear about the meaning of these labels. In the Netherlands, we calculated that about 15% of what people throw out at home is related to misunderstanding of the date labels. 

"So we started the campaign to explain (more clearly) what the difference between the two date labels is — “Use By” and “Best Before”. 

"And with “Use By”, it’s certain: you need to eat it before the date. 

“Best Before” is just the quality guarantee. So after that, you can use your own senses, to smell it and eat it — to see if it's still good to eat."

"We're working with the industry now to make a kind of logo that is very clear for every consumer.  

"So we're working with the full industry on a national level to see if we can support the consumers even better, (using) very clear labelling and also with a picture, with an image - showing directly what it means, and what's the difference in the dates is."

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