Supermarkets and major producers have promised to make it easier for consumers to understand when food is safe to eat and when it should be
thrown away for health reasons.
Thirty-eight producers and vendors have signed a pact – backed by France’s Agriculture and Environment Departments – to improve date limit labelling on pre-packed food.
Critics of the current two-label system say it gives a confused message to consumers and more than half (53%) of the population do not understand the difference between the labels.
Poor labelling accounts for 10% of the 88million tonnes of food waste generated annually in the EU, a 2018 European Commission study found.
People tend to throw away food if it exceeds the Best Before date, when it is still good to eat. The Date Limite de Consommation (DLC) – or Use By label – is used for perishable fresh food which needs to be kept in the fridge and is likely to be dangerous to health beyond the printed date. Those dates should be respected.
The Date de Durabilité Minimale (DDM), or Best Before label, indicates the period when food, usually frozen, dry or in tins or jars, is at its best. After the DDM date, food may have lost some nutritional value and flavour but, if still unopened, is still fit to eat.
The Pacte sur les Dates de Consommation has been set up by Lucie Basch, founder of the TooGoodToGo anti-food waste app, which lets consumers know when shops or restaurants have left-over food at the end of the day and are willing to sell it off at a third of the retail price to avoid throwing it away.
Across Europe, the same product might have a “use by” date in one country and a “best before” date in another.
Supermarkets and food producers such as Danone and Nestlé France that have signed the Pacte say they will work to agree on criteria for labelling and encourage consumers to use common sense when deciding whether to eat or throw away food.