Written Q&A to EU Commission – Sale of food after “use by” date or “best before” date

Question for written answer E-009356/12 to the Commission

Konstantinos Poupakis (PPE)

(15 October 2012)

Subject: Sale of food at reduced prices after expiry date

Under new provisions for the transport and sale of products in Greece, a market decree which has not been in force for 20 years has now been revived making it legal to offer food products for sale at reduced prices in retail outlets (supermarkets, shops, etc.) after their expiry date, provided that they are clearly labelled as such and stacked separately from other products.

Such products may not be offered for sale for longer than:

— one week, if their expiry date is indicated by day and month;

— one month, if their expiry date is indicated by month and year;

— three months, if their expiry date is indicated by year only.

This provision refers to non-perishable products such as pulses, pasta, biscuits, rusks, coffee, canned foods, etc. while perishable foods such as dairy products including cheese, yoghurts and milk may not be sold after their expiry date.

In view of this:

1. Can the Commission say whether similar practices are being followed in other Member States? If so, what framework provisions apply?

2. What measures are taken to protect the safety and health of consumers regarding the sale of foods after expiry date? Who is responsible for guaranteeing the quality of the product concerned?

3. What measures can be taken to guarantee the legal rights of consumers regarding goods unfit for consumption, given that, while the products concerned are being sold after their expiry date, this is being done legally, thereby exonerating manufacturers from any responsibility?

4. Is there a danger of consumer categorisation on this basis?

5. What measures can be taken to protect consumers from the use of such product categories by catering establishments (restaurants, bars, etc.)?

Answer given by Mr Šefčovič on behalf of the Commission

(26 November 2012)

The Commission is not aware of the existence of similar framework rules in other Member States but is willing to complete this information.

Pre-packed foods, with few exceptions, must bear a date of minimum durability (best before date) or a use by date. EC law (1) specifies that the ‘best before’ date should be replaced by a ‘use by’ date when, from a microbiological point of view, a food is highly perishable and is therefore likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health. It is the responsibility of the food business operator to determine when a product should be labelled with a use by date. The new Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers (2), which will apply from 13 December 2014, maintains the existing rules. Moreover, Article 24 states that after the ‘use by’ date a food shall be deemed to be unsafe in accordance with Article 14(2) to (5) of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 (3).

On the contrary, the ‘best before’ date relates to the date until which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored. Hence, even after this date, a food may still be consumed and sold, if the food business operator can assure that the food still meets all food law requirements.

Manufacturers cannot be exempted from any responsibility. Therefore, general rules in this field apply also under such national framework legislation.

Member States are responsible for the enforcement of EU food law and verify, through the organisation of official controls, that the relevant requirements thereof are fulfilled by business operators, also in catering establishments.

Official controls must be carried out regularly, and appropriate measures must be taken to eliminate risk and ensure enforcement of EU food law.

⋅1∙ Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 March 2000 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs (OJ L 109, 6.5.2000, p.29).

⋅2∙ Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, amending Regulations (EC) No 1924/2006 and (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Commission Directive 87/250/EEC, Council Directive 90/496/EEC, Commission Directive 1999/10/EC, Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission Directives 2002/67/EC and 2008/5/EC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 608/2004, OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p.18.

⋅3∙ Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles andrequirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety, OJ L 31 of 1.2.2002. 17.10.2013.


One thought on “Written Q&A to EU Commission – Sale of food after “use by” date or “best before” date

  1. Very timely and valuable to have shared this Cesare.  In our Canadian national radio recently a retailer out of the United States was interviewed about his new stores focused on selling expired foods to consumers.Dolores Smith


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