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Food waste - better use and understanding of date marking could reduce food waste

9 February 2018

The European Commission is publishing a study which estimates that up to 10% of the 88 million tons of food waste generated annually in the EU are linked to date marking.

The study was commissioned with a view to map how date marking is used in the market by food business operators and control authorities. The study found wide variation in date marking practices which, along with poor legibility of date marks (for 11% of products sampled), do not facilitate consumer understanding.

Conclusions of the study stress that strengthened cooperation and innovation amongst actors in the food supply chain can play an important role in preventing food waste and that additional guidance by control authorities may be needed in certain areas, for instance to facilitate food redistribution past the ‘best before’ date.

In relation to fresh fruit and vegetables, the report comments that sensitivity to date mark issues ‘varies by product, but evidence suggests that consumers are less responsive to date marks in this particular product area than others and are more likely to take visual clues from appearance and product condition.’

Date marking is specifically tackled by the Commission as part the Circular Economy Action Plan to prevent food waste generation in the EU.  In order to discuss with all key players the report's findings and their possible implications for food waste prevention, the Commission will create a dedicated sub-group on date marking under the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste. Objectives will be to discuss possible options (legislative and non-legislative) and help guide coordinated action by all actors concerned:  public authorities in EU Member States, food business operators, consumer - and other NGOs.

The Commission's study is available here

 

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