Ian Thomas Associates

Food Information – changes to use by and best before dates

Changes to front of pack nutrition labelling, date marking (‘best before’ and ‘use by’) and origin labelling are on the cards. The European Commission has issued a proposal for a revision of the Provision of Food Information to Consumers Regulation (1169/2011).


One of the issues of concern is that consumers are often confused by date marking – what does a best before and a use by date mean? Although the former relates to quality whereas the latter relates to safety, confusion about date marking contributes to food waste and efforts are being made to reduce the amount of food being wasted.

There are four options for a new law which are under consideration:

Option 0         Do nothing and retain the current rules.

Option 1         Revise the rules for ‘best before’ dates by including non-perishable food with long shelf life (e.g. pasta, rice, coffee and tea).

Option 2         Abolish ‘best before’ dates and only retain a date marking related to food safety/health (akin to the current ‘use by’ date).

Option 3         To improve the way in which these dates are presented by using alternative or additional words (expiration date end/best quality before end) or using a green colour for ‘best before’ dates and a red colour for ‘use by’ dates. Renewed efforts at consumer education would be required.

The proposal is part of the wider European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system.

If a new EU law is adopted and Great Britain does not enact a law with similar requirements, this could be one of the areas for regulatory divergence following Brexit. However this issue develops, it is to be hoped that consumers in the EU and in GB will continue to be the focus of food law decision-making.

Feedback is open until midnight on 3rd February 2021 and the intention is to enact a new EU law towards the end of 2022.

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